Astra’s Rocket 3.1 vehicle lifts off Friday night from Kodiak Island, Alaska. Credit: Astra / John Kraus
Astra officials said Saturday a software fix will likely resolve a guidance system problem that caused the company’s first orbital-class rocket to begin drifting off course soon after liftoff from Alaska Friday night, prompting a range safety officer to terminate the mission.
Astra’s Rocket 3.1 launch vehicle took off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska, at 11:19 p.m. EDT Friday (7:19 p.m. Alaska time; 0319 GMT Saturday).
Around 30 seconds later, the rocket’s five stage engines shut down and the 38-foot-tall (11.6-meter) rocket fell back to the ground and exploded on impact in a part of the spaceport that was cleared of personnel before launch.
The result was not unexpected after Astra officials set modest goals for the test flight. The private space company — headquartered in Alameda, California — said it planned a series of three test launches before it expects to reach orbit with its commercial rocket.
“We said back earlier this year it would probably take about three flights to reach orbit,” said Chris Kemp, Astra’s co-founder and CEO. “This first flight, we learned a lot. We ...