Astra Rocket 3.0 Sustains Damage during Pre-Launch Tests

Astra Rocket 3.0 Sustains Damage during Pre-Launch Tests

The company is yet to publicly announce the extent of the damage caused during the anomaly, or even whether it is planning for another launch. Astra has been rather quiet since the scrubbed launch attempt on March 2 at the end of the DARPA Launch Challenge

Fremont, CA: Small launch vehicle startup Astra postponed the next launch attempt for Rocket 3.0 after the rocket was damaged in what officials identified as an anomaly during pre-launch testing. The company was preparing for the launch of the Rocket 3.0 as early as March 24 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska. A previous launch attempt on March 2, now part of the completed DARPA Launch Challenge, was scrubbed off in the last minute before liftoff after the sensors reported anomalous data.

However, notices to airmen (NOTAMs) posted by the Federal Aviation Administration restricting airspace around and downrange from the launch site for launch attempts March 24 and 25 were taken down on March 23. "The rocket had been damaged in pre-launch testing earlier in the day. We’ll be rescheduling launch," said Chris Kemp, chief executive of Astra. The new launch date is yet to be decided. Kemp did not elaborate on the damage sustained by the rocket during the failed launch attempt. No injuries were reported after the incident, but the area was cordoned off.

"The area is still hazardous and should be avoided. There will be personnel on-site overnight to monitor," said Mark Lester, chief executive of Alaska Aerospace, after the emergency response concluded. The company is yet to publicly announce the extent of the damage caused during the anomaly, or even whether it is planning for another launch. Astra has been rather quiet since the scrubbed launch attempt on March 2 at the end of the DARPA Launch Challenge. During a post scrub media teleconference, Kemp stated that it would be at least a week or two before the company would be able to make another launch attempt.

Astra called the launch vehicle 1 of 3 as it was the first of three similar vehicles in production. Earlier in February, Kemp had stated that the second vehicle was 90 percent completed and the third at 40 percent. “It’s not our expectation that our first launch will succeed, but it is our expectation that a campaign will succeed if we launch, learn and iterate,” said Kemp. With the outbreak of coronavirus, travel restrictions could further cause delays in a launch, especially if those attempts require Astra to bring new personnel to the launch site.

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