On Tuesday, California-based launch company Astra reached space for the first time by launching a demonstration rocket into space from Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska, Kodiak Island, during a test mission. Astra is a launch vehicle company based in California that was incorporated in October 2016. It focuses on launching satellites and building rockets quickly “like people build cars,” the company’s co-founder Adam London says.
After the launch, the company tweeted:
This means that the rocket crossed what is believed to be the boundary of space and is located about 62 miles high.
According to the company, the Rocket 3.2 launch vehicle flew high enough to enter orbit, but it didn’t reach the high speed to achieve orbit. The vehicle reached the target altitude of 242 miles and a final speed of 16,000 miles per hour (7.2 kilometers per second), which was 7.68 kilometers per second slower than the speed needed to reach the orbit.
It may have been some residual liquid oxygen propellant leftover in the rocket’s tanks that prevented Rocket 3.2 from entering the orbit. However, this test flight is considered to be a huge success, so the company is now planning to fly another rocket with the payload onboard.
Previously, the company has already conducted two test launches of rockets that did not reach space, and the company hasn’t shared any detailed information about it.
This flight comes three months after the launch attempt in September. Back then, Rocket 3.1 took off but started to drift, and the engines shut down early, so the rocket fell back to Earth and exploded.