The rocket maker Astra Space launched its first rocket since the company’s IPO on Saturday. After a shaky launch, the rocket missed its target of reaching orbit.
As it lifted off, the missile appeared to be moving sideways rather than straight up. Chris Kemp, founder, chairman and CEO of Astra, told CNBC that an engine shut down about a second after the flight. The company is currently investigating the reason.
Astra founder and chief technology officer Adam London added that the system worked relatively well under the circumstances. Even with a failed engine, the missile had enough thrust to lift off the platform very slowly, and the guidance system kept control of the missile.
About 2 minutes and 28 seconds after the flight, the flight security crew issued an order to shut down all engines, which resulted in the missile stalling, the CEO said. It reached an altitude of about 50 kilometers and returned to Earth with no injury or property damage.
“It was obviously unsuccessful in getting anything into orbit, but it was a flight that taught us an incredible amount,” Kemp told CNBC. “We have a Series 7 that’s in production right now, and we’re going to take what we’ve learned here and put any changes into this rocket and be flying soon.”
“We have a tremendous amount of data from the flight and are in the process of reviewing it,” he added.
Executives declined to give a timetable for completing the investigation or building a new missile and the next flight.
Astra abandoned its first attempt at launch on Friday, with the rocket’s engines firing for a moment and then shutting down.
On Saturday, after a short break due to refueling problems, Astra launched the LV0006 rocket from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska at around 3:35 p.m. local time.
This was the first commercial launch for Astra, with the US Space Force hiring the launch to test a payload as part of their space test program.
The vehicle is 43 feet tall and fits in the small missile segment of the introductory market. Astra’s goal is to eventually launch as many of its small rockets as possible, with the goal of launching one rocket a day by 2025 and bringing the $ 2.5 million price tag even lower.
Saturday’s mission, postponed after Astra abandoned a launch attempt on Friday, tested a variety of upgrades to Astra’s rocket since its last mission in December. While that previous mission made it into space, the rocket ran out of fuel and only made it into orbit.
LV0006 on the launch pad in Kodiak, Alaska.
One of the company’s missiles had a problem with the guidance system during the company’s first mission early last year and crashed after launch.
Astra has teamed up with NASASpaceflight – a space industry content organization not affiliated with the US agency – to webcast the launch on Saturday.
This is a development story, please check back for updates.