Small satellite launcher Astra identifies cause behind strange sideways rocket launch
Small satellite launcher Astra says it has identified the culprit behind its bizarre launch failure in August, which caused the company’s rocket to hover sideways right after takeoff before briefly climbing into the sky. After implementing some design changes, Astra says it is ready to try again, with another launch attempt called LV0007 set as early as October 27th.
Reviewing flight data and video, two things are very clear – 1) An engine shut down right after launch 2) Everything that happened next made me incredibly proud of our team. Space may be hard, but like this rocket, we are not giving up. #AdAstrapic.twitter.com/2g3n812EaW
Astra’s third attempt on August 28th, 2021 caught people’s attention with its strange maneuvering. Right after takeoff, the rocket briefly glided off the ground and then swept to the side after one of its five main engines shut down early. The vehicle then climbed into the sky after a few seconds and even managed to reach an altitude of 31 miles before the flight crews terminated the launch two minutes and 30 seconds into the launch. Astra says that there was a leakage of the rocket’s propellant that caused the engine to cut off early, which was “something we hadn’t seen before.” The company claims to have made some design changes to ensure that the same failure doesn’t happen again.
“Data from the two-and-a-half minute flight provided valuable insights that we have incorporated into LV0007 and future launch vehicles,” said Chris Kemp, founder and CEO of Astra.
The company’s next launch out of Kodiak, Alaska will loft a test payload for the Space Test Program, which oversees experimental space launches for the US Department of Defense. Astra says its launch window for the mission first opens on October 27th and ends on October 31st. If for some reason the rocket doesn’t fly during that time, the company can try again during another window that runs from November 5th through November 12th.