The first attempt to reach Astra’s orbit ends early after the rocket fails mid-flight.


The first orbital mission for the rocket launch startup Astra ended without its rocket 3.1 reaching orbit. The rocket was successfully lifted from Alaska’s Pacific Spaceport complex at approximately 11:19 a.m. ET Friday, but the company said its guidance system “introduced some minor oscillations in flight,” causing the rocket to drift off its planned trajectory. The flight safety system shut down the engines, and the rocket fell back to the ground. It was not carrying any payload.

A viewer caught the video at launch, showing the rocket climbing. In the footage, the rocket’s engine detaches from mid-flight, and moments later, you can see flames as the rocket hits the ground.

The company’s stated purpose with this flight was to burn a nominal first stage, which apparently did not happen when the engine was shut down. But Astra was not planning to reach orbit with this launch. And it says that its preliminary data showed that the rocket performed very well.

“We were not able to meet all our objectives, but we gained valuable experience and more valuable flight data,” the company said in a blog post on Saturday. “This launch sets us well on our way to arriving in orbit within two additional flights, so we are happy with the results.”

Astra is a very small team — so small that it says it does not have a video production crew to broadcast its launch — and says its launch system was developed by six people in less than a week . Astra says that its Rocket 3.2 is ready and that it is planning another launch in the next few months.