Observers were treated to some fireworks on Friday night in Kodiak, Alaska start up Astra Space Inc. first tried to reach orbit with a 38-foot long rocket.
Astra’s vehicle flew from the Pacific Spaceport complex at 7:19 pm local time and flew about 30 seconds earlier – at which time its engines were off. Gravity did its work further, as the rocket went back towards the ground and exploded in a forested area.
Alameda, California-based Astra is one of many start upIt is worldwide to build small, cheap rockets that can orbit satellites on an almost daily basis.
The current leaders in this market are born in New Zealand. Rocket Lab, which charges $ 7.5 million per flight and has so far been the only company to conduct successful commercial flights. The big bet Astra has made is that it can build a simplified rocket at a lower cost to Rocket Lab and others, costing around $ 1 million per flight, although much work to prove this thesis. remains.
For most of this year, the Astra has been attempting to launch one and put its hardware to the test. Various problems, ranging from hardware problems to inclement weather and an epidemic, thwarted previous bids.
However, on Friday, Astra’s engineers, fueled by pizza and chicken sandwiches, worked both late in the evening at Kodiak and Mission Control in Alameda, as the team wanted to say, “Send it!”
Astra co-founder and CEO Chris Kemp found considerable positivity in the flight, as the launch system worked as expected and the rocket’s sensors and computing system fed large amounts of data back to the company.
“Obviously, it wasn’t everything we wanted it to be, but it launched, and we got a ton of great data,” he said. “We learned things that we don’t learn until we fly away.”
Given the difficult nature of the task at hand, it is common for rockets to stop or blow during initial attempts to reach orbit. Elon Musk’s SpaceX went through the same type of growing pains as its first three rocket launches had major issues before the fourth, resulting in success.
After learning about the launch of the Astra, Musk tweeted, “Sorry to hear that. I’m sure you will understand this. It took us four launches to reach orbit. Rockets are tough.”
Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck also offered words of encouragement. “The data in this game has been won so hard, huge congratulations to the team for pulling down the actual flight data from today’s effort!” He tweeted.
Adam London, Astra’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Noted Early flight data appeared to indicate an issue with the rocket’s guidance and navigation software.
This would be a plus for Astra in the sense that its hardware works as planned and a relatively simple software update can be applied to the machine to fix it. When the rocket began to drift with certainty, a safety officer shut down the engine to ensure that the vehicle landed in a predetermined safety zone, and the subsequent explosion consumed almost all the fuel left inside the machine done.
“There is no toxic propellant in our rockets,” London said. “It’s an environmentally benign thing.”
Astra already has another rocket built and ready to be tested and flown. They will spend the next few months, making final preparations on the machine before sending it to Kodiak with hopes of relaunching before the end of the year. It also has a third rocket which is about half done. The company has long stated that it expected it to take three attempts to reach the classroom.
Virgin Orbit, one of Astra’s main rivals, also faced failure earlier this year and is set for another launch effort. Firefly Aerospace, based in Cedar Park, Texas, has a much larger rocket than the Astra or Virgin Orbit and is looking to make its first performance in late 2020 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California.
Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to dominate the market for the largest class of rockets, which conduct the bulk of annual launches and, this year, are also flying humans apart from satellites into space.