Astra Space Inc’s first attempt to put a rocket into orbit ended in disappointment when it deviated from course and catapulted to the ground.
The Californian start-up took off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska on Friday evening.
The video showed the 38-foot rocket launching at 7:19 p.m. local time and flying for about 30 seconds before popping out and falling to the ground, causing a fiery explosion on landing.
‘Successful take-off and take-off, but the flight ended during the first burn phase. It looks like we have a good nominal flight time. More updates will follow! ‘Astra tweeted.
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Astra Space Inc made its first attempt at launching a rocket into orbit on Friday in Kodiak, Alaska
The video showed the 38-foot rocket taking off from Pacific Spaceport Complex at 7:19 p.m. local time and flying for about 30 seconds before deviating from course and crashing
The missile caused a fiery explosion when it landed in a designated crash area
Astra is one of a number of startups in space working to develop small, inexpensive rockets that can be launched into orbit on a daily basis.
The flight on Friday was the first of three flights to take place in the coming months, as Astra wants to solve problems with its hardware and software.
The first-time failure wasn’t surprising as other companies have seen similar first flights.
Competitor SpaceX, founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, had similar mounting pains as it shipped missiles and made four attempts to succeed.
After Musk found out about Astra’s start, he offered support on Twitter.
‘I’m sorry to hear that. I am sure you will find out, ”he wrote. “It took us four launches to get into orbit. Missiles are tough. ‘
SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared his support for Astra on Twitter
The founder and CEO of Rocket Lab – the only company to have successfully operated commercial flights – was also encouraged.
“The data in this game is so hard to win that we congratulate the team on getting the actual flight data from today’s attempt!” Peter Beck tweeted.
Astra had previously said that it didn’t expect perfection the first time, as it hopes to reach orbit within three flights.
The goal for the first flight was to achieve nominal combustion in the first stage. Although it didn’t, the company said it had gained valuable insight from the second attempt.
“We did not achieve all of our goals, but we have gained valuable experience and even more valuable flight data,” wrote company representatives in the blog post.
“With this start, we are well on the way to reaching orbit within two more flights. So we are satisfied with the result.”
Astra had previously said that it didn’t expect perfection the first time, as it hopes to reach orbit within three flights
Chris Kemp, co-founder and CEO of Astra, praised the launch, saying the systems worked as expected and gave the engineers plenty of information to help plan the next flight.
“Obviously it didn’t do everything we wanted, but it started and we got a lot of great data,” said Kemp.
“We learned things that we wouldn’t otherwise learn if we didn’t fly.”
Adam London, the company’s chief technology officer, founder of Astra, said early results indicated a problem with the missile’s guidance and navigation software.
When the missile deviated from course, a security officer shut down the engines to ensure they would land in a designated safety zone, the company said.
London assured that the crash would not cause permanent environmental problems.
“Our missile has no toxic propellants,” he said. “It’s a pretty environmentally friendly thing.”
Adam London, Astra’s co-founder and chief technology officer, assured that the crash would not cause permanent environmental problems
Astra is aiming to build a simpler rocket than others in the field that could significantly undercut its competitors’ prices.
Rocket Lab, the current leader, is charging about $ 7.5 million per flight, while Astra says its rockets would cost only $ 1 million per flight.
Astra had hoped to move forward in the process, but its schedule has been interrupted several times this year – including due to bad weather and the pandemic.
The second rocket is already waiting in the wings for the second round, which probably won’t happen for a few months, when engineers analyze what happens if an error occurs on the first launch.