Rocket start-up Astra has finally arrived in orbit with its Rocket 3, successfully reaching orbit on its fourth attempt. “The team worked hard for this,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp wrote on Twitter. “We were just getting started, folks. “
The mission, coded LV0007, was launched from Astra’s site in Kodiak, Alaska at 1:16 a.m.ET on Saturday, November 20. For this mission, the rocket carried no actual payload, but instead carried a test or dummy payload for US space. Obligate. It successfully reached orbit, marking the first time Astra has achieved this feat.
A tweet from Kemp confirmed that the rocket had entered orbit “at our target tilt of 86.0 degrees at an altitude of 500 km [310 miles]”:
Astra has just reached orbit! 7.61 km / sec at our target incline of 86.0 degrees at an altitude of 500 km. The team worked hard for this. We’re just getting started, folks. #Ad Astra pic.twitter.com/NiMhCEsuCI
– Chris Kemp (@Kemp) 20 November 2021
It took a long way for Astra to achieve this goal, with three previous launches failing to reach orbit. Most recently, he launched his Rocket 3 on Saturday August 28 of this year, but the rocket lifted off the launch pad and drifted at an angle before taking off upwards. The rocket flew off, but the mission had to be halted several minutes after the start of the flight because it had strayed from its intended path. The problem was thought to be due to an issue with the Delphin engines, five of which power the rocket.
With the successful launch today, Astra joins the small number of private companies that have proven their ability to launch into orbit. After launch, the Delphin engines on the first stage fired for about three minutes, carrying the rocket upward before it split off its second stage. In addition to the five Delphin engines that lift the rocket off the ground, the Rocket 3 also has a single second-stage Aether engine that is designed to operate in a vacuum and that fires after separation. Once the Aether engine finished combustion, the craft entered orbit and performed a deployment simulation of its payload.
If you would like to watch the launch for yourself, a video feed of the events is available for playback on the NASA Spaceflight Channel.
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