Then last year in November, Astra reached orbit with its Rocket 3.3, an improved version of its launch vehicle. It took off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska's Kodiak Island, successfully carrying a payload for the U.S. Space Force.
Now, the company is getting ready for its first operational satellite launch, which will be conducted from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The flight is part of NASA's Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) program, which awarded Astra a $3.9 million contract back in 2020 to launch small satellites into space.
The company is targeting January 2022 for liftoff. A video of the Rocket 3.3 coming to life at Cape Canaveral was recently posted on Twitter by Astra's founder Chris Kemp. He also mentioned that the date and time for the mission will be announced once the company receives its launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Although there's not a fixed launch date still set, the test shows that preparations are in full swing. Once everything gets settled, the rocket is expected to carry four small research satellites, known as CubeSats.
The CubeSats will be flying on the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa 41) mission and will get launched from atop the rocket's upper stage into Earth's orbit. Once deployed, they will demonstrate various new technologies meant to speed up space operations.
Successful static test completed. We will announce launch date and time when we receive our license from the FAA! pic.twitter.com/0W4zoGX29k— Chris Kemp (@Kemp) January 22, 2022