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Successful Orbital Launch for Astra Space

by | Nov 22, 2021 | News, Science, Telecom & Tech

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The Alaska Aerospace Corporation’s first commercial customer at the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island finally had success launching a rocket to orbit. California-based Astra Space sent up its 43-foot, two-stage Launch Vehicle 0007 on Friday night, carrying a dummy payload as a test for the US Space Force.

Lucky Number

The rocket reached an altitude of approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers) at an inclination of 86 degrees, circling pole to pole every 90 minutes or so.

Three previous attempts to reach orbit fell short. One rocket exploded near the launchpad in September 2020. Three months later, Rocket 3.2 flew to the edge of space but ran out of fuel before reaching orbit. In August, Rocket 3.3 (serial number LV0006) skidded sideways off the launchpad, expending too much fuel to reach orbit. The next rocket off the production line was “lucky number seven,” as Astra’s director of product management, Carolina Grossman, called it on a webcast of Friday’s launch.

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Despite the rocky road to orbit, the Bay Area startup claims to be the fastest company to achieve the milestone, since it started developing the unnamed rocket, small enough to fit in a shipping container.

“We can now focus on delivering for our customers and scaling up rocket production and launch cadence,” says Astra Space founder, chairman, and CEO Chris Kemp. Company plans call for a furious cadence over the next few years, with a rhythm of monthly launches as soon as possible, escalating to weekly by the end of 2022, and “daily space delivery,” or roughly 300 launches, in 2025.

The key to the strategy is the smaller, simpler rockets, compared to the technically demanding, high-performance rockets by vendors such as SpaceX.

A former Astra Space employee, Milton B. Keeter Jr., was hired in October as the new CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which operates the state-owned launch pad on Kodiak. The Pacific Spaceport Complex had hosted mostly government and military launches since opening in 1998. Astra’s suborbital Rocket 1.0 in July 2018 was the first by a commercial customer.

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