WASHINGTON – Astra launched its Rocket 3.1 vehicle late September 11, but the flight ended during the first stage burn of the small launch vehicle.
According to a series of tweets by the company, the rocket lifted from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska on Kodiak Island around 11:20 pm. The lift was followed by a previous attempt. On September 10, it was scrubbed due to a sensor issue.
The company later tweeted that the rocket successfully lifted, but “the flight ended during the first stage burn.” The company did not provide additional details about how long after the flight ended, or how the flight ended. “Looks like we’ve got a decent amount of nominal flight time.”
Rocket 3.1 is the first in a series of three demonstrations launched by the Astra to show that the vehicle can reach orbit. In briefings with reporters in late July, company officials said their goal for this launch was to get through the first stage barn and then disassemble the upper stage, about two and a half minutes after liftoff. The company did not expect this rocket to reach orbit, and the vehicle was not carrying payloads.
“We don’t intend to hit a hole-in-one here,” said Chris Kemp, chief executive and co-founder of Astra in July. “We intend to complete sufficiently to ensure that we are capable of orbiting after three flights, and for us this means that the nominal first-stage burn and the upper phase are successfully separated. . ”
At the time of Kemp’s speaking, Astra planned to launch from Kodiak in early August during a six-day window. However, a combination of inclement weather, technical issues and a boundary breach put the rocket to the ground. The company initially rescheduled the window opening at the end of August, then moved to open the window on September 10 because of the weather.
Rocket 3.1 is an updated version of the Rocket 3.0 vehicle that the company attempted to develop and launch during the DARPA Launch Challenge Responsive Launch Competition. The company launched the launch effort for less than a minute before launching on March 2, the last day of the competition. Astra was preparing for another launch attempt in late March, but the vehicle was devastated when Valve failed after a wet dress rehearsal.
At the July briefing, co-founder and chief technology officer Adam London said the next vehicle is largely complete, but still has to go through testing, as well as any issues to be addressed from this launch Revision is required. “At least it will be a few months,” he said when asked if the vehicle could be ready to launch soon.