Astra Rocket Has a Scary Launch, Takes Off Sideways and Still Manages to Fly Over Alaska

Astra Rocket 3.3 soars into the Alaska sky 6 photos
Photo: Astra via Twitter
Astra Rocket 3.3Astra Rocket 3.3Astra Rocket 3.3Astra Rocket 3.3 completes hot fire testAstra Rocket 3.3 soars into the Alaska sky
Space startup Astra was supposed to reach space with its two-stage Launch Vehicle 0006 or Rocket 3.3 on Saturday, August 28th, from Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska. But, things didn't go as planned. Less than one second after takeoff, it encountered an engine failure, which made it wobble sideways. Somehow, Astra's rocket still managed to fly over Alaska for more than two minutes before the mission came to an end.
The flight was initially scheduled for Friday, August 27th, but was scrubbed off at the last moment. The next day, at 3:35 p.m. PT, the rocket lifted off with a test payload for the U.S. Space Force from the company's Pacific Spaceport Complex.

Less than a second after takeoff, one of the five main engines failed, causing the rocket to go sideways off the launch pad before regaining its trajectory. The range issued an all-engine shutdown command after roughly two minutes and thirty seconds after takeoff, thereby terminating the mission. Even though it took off with one engine less, the vehicle was capable of reaching an altitude of about 31 miles (50 kilometers).

"We regret that we were unable to accomplish all mission objectives for the U.S. Space Force; however, we captured a tremendous amount of data from this test flight," said Chris Kemp, Founder and CEO of Astra. "We will incorporate learnings from this test into future launch vehicles, including LV0007, which is currently in production."

Kemp took to Twitter and commented that Astra is "not giving up." Compared to the company's previous rocket versions, Rocket 3.3 is a bigger vehicle with an improved ground segment. The recent flight, although it was unsuccessful, it did test the new upgrades implemented into the rocket. Astra still has time to improve until its future launch, and there's no rush either as the mission has a launch window open until September 11th.

The company's final goal is to use its rockets to reach orbit daily in order to speed up the satellite deployment process. Astra intends to launch a few satellites nearly every day to help establish a constellation in less than five years.

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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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