Astra fires up its engines on a new rocket line.
On Thursday (September 1), California-based Astra released footage showing one of its engines going on a “hot fire” as the company continues development of the Rocket 4, which could begin test flights in 2023.
“Testing engines for our new launch system. #AdAstra,” the company tweeted. (will open in a new tab). No details about the fire’s duration or other testing metrics were immediately available.
The company announced last month that it would end production of its Rocket 3 launch vehicle line due to multiple failures in order to focus on “the next iteration of its launch system.” Astra’s goal is to create a more powerful machine with greater reliability and payload, as well as to produce rockets faster.
Video: Watch Astra LV0010 rocket launch failure with NASA satellites
The most recent loss occurred on June 12, when an Astra 0010 (LV0010) launch vehicle suffered a second stage failure minutes after Earth’s departure from Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Two NASA cubesats, the first of six hurricane-tracking satellites, have been lost. The agency is considering deployment options for a fleet called the Time-Resolved Precipitation Pattern and Storm Intensity Observations with the Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission.
Meanwhile, the Astra Rocket 4 is not expected to perform test launches until 2023 at the earliest. Astra officials say it will have ten times the payload capacity of Rocket 3 and will have a payload capacity of 1,320 pounds (600 kg), allowing larger constellations to be launched into orbit. An upgraded upper stage engine will support these efforts.
Business deals continue despite a lull in startups; Airbus OneWeb Satellites Deal Announced (will open in a new tab) Monday (August 29) to receive Astra spacecraft engines for integration into Arrow commercial small satellites. (Small satellite maker OneWeb and aerospace giant Airbus are participating in the deal through a joint venture.)
“We want to do some test flights, we want to test every component of the system, we want to test the motors, we want to test the stages, we want to test the software, we want to test the electronics,” CEO Chris. Kemp told Rocket 4 investors during a phone call about quarterly results last month.
He added that the timeline for Rocket 4 will be “a lot of uncertainty because we want to give the team time to do all of this testing before we do another commercial launch.”
Including test flights and earlier versions of the Rocket 3 line, the now discontinued rocket group has failed five times in seven launches, according to SpaceNews. (will open in a new tab).
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