Increase volume! Rocket 3.1 attempted launch in orbital pic.twitter.com/nm1bDewdl5September 12th, 2020
After a failed startup debut, space startup Astra may be able to attempt its second orbital test shot before the end of 2020.
The California-based company launched its first orbital test flight On Friday evening (September 11th) he sent his 12-meter-high Rocket 3.1 vehicle into the sky from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.
Everything went well from the start. But then Rocket 3.1
Connected: The history of the missile
Preliminary data analysis suggests the problem was in the Rocket 3.1 control system, which “appeared to introduce some slight roll oscillation into the flight,” Adam London, co-founder and chief technology officer of Astra, told reporters during a conference call on Saturday afternoon Sept. ).
The fireball, while dramatic, was not dangerous, said Chris Kemp, co-founder and CEO of Astra, emphasizing that Rocket 3.1’s flight termination system did its job as expected.
The two-stage booster is so small that it doesn’t require a self-destruct system on board, he explained.
“We can really only cause that rocket Land safely in a safety area by commanding the engines to stop, “said Kemp.” It’s a very effective technique. And it means the missile has no explosives or pyrotechnics on board, which makes it safer. “
It appears that the leadership flaw was caused by a software problem, London and Kemp said. That’s good news if confirmed, which suggests Astra’s path back to the launch pad won’t be particularly long or tiring, they added.
“We could have learned things that could set us back six months or a year,” said Kemp.
Instead, the changes required will “likely include a software update to our control system,” he added. “This is fantastic news, and I couldn’t be more pleased that Rocket 3.2 is expected to be in Alaska before the end of the year.”
Rocket 3.2 is almost ready to use. Final assembly and testing of the booster, which is very similar to Rocket 3.1, is currently taking place at Astra’s headquarters in the Bay Area, London said.
Astra was founded in 2016 and aims to achieve successful orbit within three attempts. Rocket 3.1’s performance on Friday night was encouraging and kept the company on track to meet that goal, Kemp said.
Thanks @elonmusk. We appreciate that and are encouraged by the progress we have made today on our first of three flights en route to orbit. Https://t.co/CrH8iBYNpSSeptember 12, 2020
In the long term, Astra aims to secure a considerable part of the market for small satellite launches. This market is currently dominated by Missile laboratorywhat gives Smallsat’s special trips to orbit (as Astra plans to do), and SpaceXCarrying bantam spaceships as “ridesharing” on missions that throw up large primary payloads.
Astra aims to expand its niche with an inexpensive, flexible and extremely responsive launch system. For example, the entire Rocket 3.1 launch system was deployed by fewer than six people in less than a week prior to the Friday night test flight, Astra officials said.
“There just aren’t enough launches to hit enough targets for this new generation of small satellite payloads,” said Kemp. “We are excited to be working with Rocket Lab, SpaceX and other companies that are delivering this next generation of satellites to provide new services to help people here on earth connect and improve our lives.”
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for another’s life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.