Space

Private space startup Astra reaches orbit for the first time

Private space startup Astra re...
Astra's LV007 mission lifts off
Astra's LV007 mission lifts off
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Astra's LV007 mission lifts off
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Astra's LV007 mission lifts off
Astra has its own dedicated spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska
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Astra has its own dedicated spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska

A new player has joined the ranks of private spacefaring outfits with the ability to reach orbit, following the successful lift-off for startup Astra's launch vehicle. The achievement comes just five years after the company was established, marking a rapid emergence for the aspiring provider of small satellite launch services.

The Alameda-based Astra was incorporated in October 2016, launched its first rocket in July 2018, and then reached space for the first time in December of 2020. This made it the fastest privately-funded company to reach space.

With its own dedicated spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska, the company then set out to reach orbit in August but came up short, with one of its rocket's five main engines shutting down less than a second after lift-off. The flight was ended after two and half minutes, with the team investigating the cause of the failure through a joint probe with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Astra has its own dedicated spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska
Astra has its own dedicated spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska

The team then set its sights on the LV0007 mission, with a test payload for the US Space Force packed into the protective fairing of Rocket 3.3, an expendable two-stage rocket designed to carry 500-kg (1,100-lb) payloads to altitudes of 500 km (310 miles).

Lifting off on November 20, Astra's orbital launch vehicle fared much better this time around, successfully reaching its target altitude of 500 km at an 86-degree inclination.

A full stream of the launch can be seen below.

Astra Test Flight (Launch Vehicle 0007)

Source: Astra

5 comments
5 comments
michael_dowling
They can't compete economically with SpaceX with non-reusable launch vehicles.
Nelson Hyde Chick
Alaska? The best because it is the easiest to attain orbit is somplace as neaar the eqautor as possible.
foxpup
Steps in the right direction. Now they can start getting revenue and make progress even more quickly. It would be nice to see Space-X get some real competition so the market stays (or becomes) healthy. Hats off to Astra!!! :-)
MattII
@michael-dowling
Well it took SpaceX a while to sort out reusability. Plus this is Astra's first successful launch, so that's not something to look at now. Maybe in a few years, once they have a bit of experience behind them.
Ralf Biernacki
@NHC: As long as the intended orbit is more-or-less in the equatorial plane, you can get free extra delta-V by launching near the equator. Not true for polar or molniya orbits, which are typical of survey and spy satellites. So apparently the company is betting on the intelligence client.