Astra resumes flight and deploys its first satellites weeks after failed launch

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Astra’s Rocket 3 vehicle has successfully resumed flight and deployed its first satellites into orbit just 33 days after a failed launch attempt.

The 3.3 rocket – tail number LV0009 – lifted off at 12:22 p.m. EST (3:22 ​​p.m. local time) on March 15 from Kodiak Island, the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. A previous launch attempt the day before had been canceled by bad weather.

Takeoff and climb seemed nominal, followed by a successful fairing separation – where the previous Astra launch had failed – and a good upper stage performance. However, there was no immediate confirmation that the payload deployment was successful. During a webcast of the launch, Carolina Grossman, Astra’s chief product officer, warned viewers that a lack of ground stations meant there was no immediate way of knowing whether the payload deployment had taken place. Just over an hour after the satellites were deployed, Astra CEO Chris Kemp said “the flight was nominal” on the webcast. “We were able to accurately deliver the targeted orbit and inclination at orbital speed.” The deployment of the payload was finally confirmed.

The mission was carrying payloads for three clients. EyeStar-S4, developed by NearSpace Launch, will test inter-satellite communication technologies and will remain attached to the second stage of Rocket 3.3. OreSat0 is a student-built CubeSat intended to test flight hardware and develop a “flight legacy” with several critical flight components for future use. The third payload remains unidentified.

The successful launch is a milestone for the Astra team. Just a month ago, during their first launch attempt in Florida, technical difficulties in separating the fairing from the payload ended the mission long before orbit. Astra recently completed an investigation into the anomaly and concluded that the failure to deploy the payload shroud was caused by an “electrical issue”. Poor engineering drawings led assembly technicians to lay out the fairing’s wiring so that its five splitter mechanisms fired in the incorrect order. This caused an electrical disconnect which prevented the last separation mechanism from receiving its command to open, which then prevented the shroud from completely separating before the upper stage ignited.

According to Astra, “Separately, we discovered a software issue that prevented the upper stage engine from utilizing its thrust vector control system. This led to the vehicle crashing after the unnominal stage separation and caused the end of the mission.” The team worked very hard – every day, every weekend, many nights – to quickly identify the problems we had on the flight, get another rocket back to Kodiak and fly,” Kemp said during the webcast. Astra has three more launches scheduled for this spring, including additional missions from Launch Complex 36 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Astra resumes flight and deploys its first satellites weeks after failed launch






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