Astra aims to reach orbit for 1st time early Saturday: Watch it live
The launch window opens at midnight EST (0500 GMT) on Saturday
(Image credit: Astra/John Kraus)
Update for 2:15 a.m. EST on Nov. 19: Astra has scrubbed its early-Friday (Nov. 19) launch attempt. The next launch window opens at midnight EST (0500 GMT) on Saturday (Nov. 20).
Astra aims to reach orbit for the first time early Friday morning (Nov. 19), and you can watch the action live.
The Bay Area startup plans to send its Launch Vehicle 0007 (LV0007) skyward from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska's Kodiak Island on Friday during a window that opens at midnight EST (0500 GMT; 8 p.m. local Alaska time on Nov. 18).
Friday's launch is a test mission for the U.S. military. The 43-foot-tall (13 meters) LV0007 will be carrying a dummy payload, just as its predecessor did on Astra's most recent launch.
That liftoff, which occurred from Kodiak on Aug. 28, was a memorable one. The rocket, known as LV0006, performed a horizontal slide off the pad, righted itself a few seconds later and climbed into the Alaska sky. But it couldn't overcome the initial difficulties, and the mission was terminated 2.5 minutes into flight.
Astra soon determined that one of LV0006's five first-stage engines had conked out just after launch, a problem that engineers traced to an issue with the vehicle's propellant-distribution system. That issue has been fixed on LV0007 and other rockets to come, company representatives said.
Astra, which was founded in 2016, intends to secure a large portion of the small-satellite launch market with its line of cost-effective, mass-produced and easily transportable rockets.
The company has conducted three orbital test launches to date, all of them from the Pacific Spaceport Complex. The first flight, which lifted off in September 2020, ended early after Astra's rocket suffered a serious problem with its guidance system.
Astra reached space on the second mission, which launched in December 2020, although the rocket ran out of fuel just before attaining orbital velocity. The third attempt was made by LV006 in August.
Astra delays fourth orbital launch attempt from Kodiak
Smallsat launch startup Astra Space is slated to make another attempt at achieving orbit, now as early as Friday night. The launch window for LV0007 opened on November 18 (November 19 UTC), but a first launch attempt was scrubbed. Launch is now targeted for a backup opportunity no earlier than 9:00 PM PST on November 19 (05:00 UTC on November 20). The launch is to be conducted from LP-3B at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska.
Similar to the last attempt, the only payload onboard is a test payload for the United States Space Force’s (USSF) Space Test Program which will not be deployed. The USSF designation for the mission is STP-27AD2.
LV0007 is the fourth Rocket 3 vehicle to make an orbital launch attempt. The first-ever Rocket 3 vehicle, more specifically designated Rocket 3.0, was intended to launch on the “1 of 3” mission in pursuit of the DARPA Launch Challenge. Of three companies that entered the challenge – Astra, Virgin Orbit, and Vector Space Systems – Astra was the only company to reach launch day.
On the last launch opportunity to progress in the challenge – March 2, 2020 – the mission was scrubbed, and the challenge went unclaimed. Later that month, while Astra pivoted towards completing a test flight, the vehicle was lost before it could make its launch attempt due to a fire during a pre-launch countdown rehearsal. No payloads or personnel were harmed.