Astra Space, an American company, launched its first rocket on Saturday but failed to achieve its goal of reaching orbit. Something seemed to be wrong from the beginning. The Launch Vehicle 0006 lurched sideways at the time of liftoff rather than straight up.
But the rocket soared high into the sky, reaching an altitude of about 20.5 miles before shutting down. Space.com stated that the mission was terminated around max q, the point when the mechanical stresses on a rocket are highest. Carolina Grossman, director of product management, Astra, said although they did not achieve their primary objective, they will work hard to determine what happened. “And as we dig into the flight data, we are optimistic about the future and our next attempt.”
Chris Kemp, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Astra, told CNBC that about a second into the flight, one engine shut down, while Adam London – the company’s Chief Technology Officer, said the system performed relatively well under the circumstances. “The rocket had sufficient thrust even with one engine out to very slowly lift off the pad, and the guidance system maintained control of the rocket.”
The CEO highlighted that about two minutes and 28 seconds into the flight, the flight safety crew issued an all-engine shut-down command which caused the rocket to stall. It reached an altitude of about 31 miles and returned back to Earth with no injuries or damage to any property. “It was obviously not successful at putting anything in orbit, but it was a flight where we learned a tremendous amount,” Kemp said. “We do have a serial 7 which is right now in production and we’ll take what we learned here and incorporate whatever charges into that rocket and will be flying soon. We have a tremendous amount of data from the flight and are in the process of reviewing it.”
This was Astra’s first commercial launch for the US military to test a payload under its Space Test Program. The 43-foot-tall Launch Vehicle 0006, a member of Astra’s Rocket 3.3 series carried a test payload for the US Department of Defense’s Space Test Program. Astra wants to eventually launch as many of its small rockets as it can, aiming to launch one rocket a day by 2025 and drop its $2.5 million price point.