American start-up Astra successfully reaches orbit with latest rocket launch
California Bay Area start-up Astra, on November 20, joined the big league of private companies that have successfully put spacecraft in space. The company's 13-meter tall Launch Vehicle 0007 (LV0007) blasted off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska's Kodiak Island with a dummy payload. The start-up already has some high-profile clients and it aims to capture the small-satellite launch market with its offerings.
Why does it matter?
- Astra was founded in 2016 to develop a range of cost-effective, evolving rockets with the flexibility to inject various payloads into orbit. In fact, Astra's entire launch system can be moved in a few shipping containers.
- The successful launch Saturday was just the fourth-ever orbital test flight for Astra after a run in August ended short of reaching orbit due to first-stage engine failure.
Rocket entered orbit around Earth nine minutes after launch
In its latest attempt, Astra's LV0007 carried a dummy payload for the US military into space. The rocket launched at 1:16am EST (11:46am IST) and nine minutes later, the upper stage entered orbit around Earth at an altitude of 500 kilometers. During the launch webcast, Astra's director of product management, Carolina Grossman, said, "We are absolutely bursting with pride at LV0007—lucky number seven!"
Astra CEO Chris Kemp tweets about the LV0007's successful launch
Astra just reached orbit! 7.61km/sec at our targeted 86.0 degree inclination at an altitude of 500km. The team worked hard for this. We’re just getting started, folks. #AdAstra pic.twitter.com/NiMhCEsuCI— Chris Kemp (@Kemp) November 20, 2021
Astra wants to reduce smaller companies' dependency on satellite ridesharing
Referring to the successful launch, Grossman added, "This represents a huge, huge step in our mission to improve life on Earth from space." Astra will fit in an unsatiated niche in the launch industry. It will manufacture and launch smaller rockets so companies can send cargo to space on dedicated missions instead of through rideshare models with larger launch vehicles from SpaceX and NASA.
Astra could be launching rockets every day by 2025
Space.com reported that Astra hopes to reach a daily launch cadence by 2025. On the webcast, the start-up's CEO and co-founder Kemp said, "We have rocket serial number 8, 9, 10 in production (sic)." "We're just getting started," he added. Additionally, Astra applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to create a constellation of 13,600 internet-providing satellites, much like SpaceX's Starlink network.