Science

Astra to launch mission for NASA from Florida next month

The Space Coast is welcoming another rocket to its shores.

Astra will launch a NASA mission from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in January, the California rocket maker announced Monday (December 6). The flight, Astra’s first from Florida, will take off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral.

“This historic launch site has been prepared for a new commercial launch partner in less than [a] year, which is a huge milestone for our combined team and illustrates how the SLD 45 sets the pace for access to space, “said Brigadier General Stephen Purdy, commander of the US Space Force Delta 45 Space Launch, in a statement from Astra.

“SLD 45, Space Florida and Astra have moved at rapid speed to demonstrate critical and responsive launch capabilities,” added Purdy, who heads Eastern Range, the organization that oversees launches from the US East Coast. “We are very excited to welcome Astra to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. “

Video: Watch Astra’s Rocket 3.2 Launch On Its First Successful Flight

Astra did not provide further details on the upcoming flight. However, it could be
ELaNa 41, which will deploy five tiny cubesats manifested through NASA’s Nanosatellites Educational Launch program. Astra has a contract to launch that mission, which is scheduled to take off in late 2021 / early 2022.

Astra builds cost-effective, responsive, and ever-evolving rockets designed to give small satellites dedicated space travel. The company, which is based in the California Bay Area, first entered orbit last month during a test flight for the US military.

That mission, and the other three orbital test flights Astra has launched to date, took off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island. But the company has long planned to expand its launch operations to multiple sites around the world.

For example, Astra has a contract to launch NASA’s TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Rainfall Structure and Intensity with a Constellation of Small Satellites) mission. TROPICS will study hurricane formation and evolution using six cubesats, which Astra will launch over the course of three missions next year from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.

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