Skip to main content

Astra successfully returns to flight just a month after launch failure

Astra successfully returns to flight just a month after launch failure

/

Though it was touch-and-go there for a minute

Share this story

Astra’s LV0009 rocket ahead of today’s flight from Alaska.
Astra’s LV0009 rocket ahead of today’s flight from Alaska.
Image: Astra

Space startup Astra successfully returned to launch today, a little more than a month after its last launch failed mid-flight. Taking off from Kodiak, Alaska, Astra’s LV0009 rocket deployed the satellites it was carrying into orbit for three commercial companies, marking the company’s first successful commercial mission.

There was a brief moment during the flight, however, where it seemed like today’s mission might have been a failure. Soon after reaching orbit, the vehicle was supposed to deploy the satellites it was carrying (except for one that was to remain attached to the rocket). However, Astra did not immediately receive confirmation that the payloads had deployed and ended its livestream of the flight before getting word about the fate of the satellites. One of the hosts of the livestream explained that the rocket was “far down range” of the company’s ground station for communicating with the vehicle.

“Our customers are calling us and indicating that the satellites are alive”

About an hour afterward, Astra resumed its livestream again briefly with CEO Chris Kemp, who confirmed the satellites had actually been deployed. “The payloads have started to communicate with ground stations,” Kemp said. “Our customers are calling us and indicating that the satellites are alive. They’re talking, which means they’ve been successfully deployed.” Trading of Astra’s stock was then halted shortly after the confirmation due to volatility.

Today’s launch marks a remarkably short return-to-flight for Astra, following its last launch failure on February 10th. Prior to today’s flight, the company had experienced a string of failures and mishaps, and had only reached orbit successfully once in November 2021. Now the company can say it has successfully reached orbit a second time. “This has not been easy,” Kemp said during the livestream. “We had a flight just over a month ago, and the team worked really hard — every day, every weekend, many nights — to quickly identify the issues we had on the flight, get another rocket back up to Kodiak, and fly it. And it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Astra’s February flight, the first time the company launched from Florida, was supposed to put four small satellites into orbit for NASA. Astra’s rocket launched as expected, but experienced a problem during rocket stage separation — when the vehicle intentionally breaks apart and sheds weight as it moves along its path into space. Live footage of the flight showed the rocket moving uncontrollably after the stage separation procedure took place. As a result of the failure, all of the payloads on the flight were lost.

On March 6th, Astra said it had identified the issue with the February launch, noting there was a problem with the payload fairing, or the nose cone on top of the rocket that enshrouds the satellites during launch. The fairing did not separate as planned ahead of stage separation. Astra blamed the failure on the separation mechanisms, which are used to separate the fairing in half.

The separation mechanisms (our fairing has 5 of these) were fired in an incorrect order, which resulted in off-nominal movement of the fairing that caused an electrical disconnection. Due to the disconnection, the last separation mechanism never received its command to open, which prevented the fairing from separating completely before upper stage ignition.

Astra said it also found a separate software issue that caused the rocket to tumble after the stage separation. The company explained how it identified the root causes of both issues and developed ways to address the problems.

Today’s flight had payloads for three customers on board, a mission that had been arranged through a company called Spaceflight, which helps match satellites to rockets going to orbit. The customers included Portland State Aerospace Society and NearSpace Launch.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago Striking out

E
External Link
Emma RothTwo hours ago
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.