The Astra 3.2 rocket was tested to fly from the Pacific spaceport complex in Alaska on December 15, 2020. The rocket reaches space, this is the first time for California-based Astra. (Photo credit: Astra / John Kraus)
Astra plans to enter Earth’s orbit for the first time this summer and return several times in the following weeks, months and years. Small launch startup
Bay Area first entered space in December last year, with its 38-foot (12-meter) 3.2 rocket aircraft for a test flight from the Pacific Spaceport complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska. .
Rocket 3.2 did not enter orbit, it ran out of fuel for a few seconds before reaching the required speed. But Astra has made some adjustments to its next thruster, rocket 3.3, and plans to launch a new rocket in an orbital mission with a fully operational satellite sometime this summer.
If all goes according to plan, that launch will begin to continue accelerating towards the final border of Astra.
“In the fall, we will start this monthly rhythm, and then we will continue this rhythm as we start to accelerate to the weekly [orbital launch] at the end of next year,” said Astra CEO Chris Kemp, who was in 2016 Co-founded the company, he told Space.com.
“Then we will cross it every week,” Camp said, with the goal of “achieving daily space deliveries in 2025, or about 300 launches.”
Video: Watch the launch of the first successful flight of Astra Rocket 3.2
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Small Rockets, Big Plans The
small satellite launch market is growing rapidly, and Astra intends to seize a considerable portion. The start-up’s strategic focus is to provide cheap, flexible and dedicated orbital travel, using simplified, mass-produced rockets that are small enough to be transported to the launch site in standard containers. Kemp said that the
Astra’s two-stage transmitter will also continue to evolve, and a new and improved version will be released about every year. Some of the planned enhancements are substantial and require more than simple adjustments made by the company to update Rocket 3.3’s fuel management software.
For example, the current Rocket 3 series has five “Delphin” first-class engines and one top-level “Aether” engine, all of which are developed and manufactured in-house. However, the rocket No. 4 that Astra plans to use when launching every week in 2022 will be powered by a single first-stage engine, a brand new engine that is much more powerful than the Dolphin.
This change alone allows Astra to send hundreds of kilograms of material into low-Earth orbit, Kemp said, significantly increasing the payload capacity of Rocket 3 to approximately 110 pounds. (50 kg). Top engine upgrades, as well as some large-scale adjustments, should allow Astra to launch satellites weighing up to 1,100 pounds. (500 kg) In the near future, Kemp added. The increased payload capacity of
will allow Astra to compete for more launch contracts, for example, from companies that build huge constellations of broadband, such as OneWeb and Amazon. (SpaceX is assembling such a constellation as well, but is launching its Internet satellite Starlink with its own Falcon 9 rocket.)
“When we build the next versions of the rocket, our goal is 500 kilograms so that we can solve the entire giant constellation market,” Kemp said. Kemp said
Astra already has more than 50 launch contracts and revenues of more than $ 150 million. Some of the company’s clients are very eye-catching. For example, in May this year, Astra announced that it had signed an agreement with San Francisco-based Planet, which operates the world’s largest constellation of Earth-observing satellites.
Astra will launch the Planet spacecraft next year; the announcement did not reveal the number of missions or financial details.
In February of last year, Astra won a $ 7.95 million contract to launch NASA’s Time Resolved Observations mission with a Constellation of Small Satellites (TROPICS) of precipitation structure and storm intensity. NASA officials said TROPICS will use six cubic satellites to study the formation and evolution of hurricanes, and Astra will launch three missions between January and July 2022.