Last Saturday (28), startup Astra made its third attempt to launch a rocket into Earth orbit with the Launch Vehicle 0006 rocket, a member of the Rocket 3.3 series, which carried a test payload for the Department of Defense Test Program United States Space. Once launched, the rocket presented an anomaly that resulted in the termination of the flight, without reaching space.
The two-stage rocket was launched at the Kodiak Island spaceport in Alaska at 7:35 pm GMT. However, something didn’t seem right at launch: instead of climbing vertically, the rocket tipped over and began to move horizontally; soon after, the vehicle regained position and began to climb. After about two and a half minutes, the rocket continued its upward trajectory until the moment of ignition of the first stage, but the vehicle’s camera seemed to show part of the propeller releasing at this stage, which is what causes the greatest mechanical stress.
Reviewing flight data and video, two things are very clear – 1) An engine shut down right after launch 2) Everything that happened next made me incredibly proud of our team. Space may be hard, but like this rocket, we are not giving up. #AdAstra pic.twitter.com/2g3n812EaW
— Chris Kemp (@Kemp) August 29, 2021
According to preliminary analysis, one of the five engines in the first stage failed just 1 second after launch, for reasons that are not yet clear. As the rocket burned fuel, it became light enough to be supported by the other engines; however, at 2 minutes and 28 seconds into the flight, a command was issued to terminate the thrust generated by the engines because the vehicle was off the trajectory for which it was licensed. The rocket reached a maximum altitude of approximately 50 km, and then crashed to a spot in the ocean far from Kodiak Island, without posing any risk to the local population.
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Chris Kemp, co-founder and CEO of Astra, said the company is investigating what happened. “We’ve collected a tremendous amount of data from the flight and we’ve got Launch Vehicle 7 at a stage of development where we’ll be able to incorporate everything we’ve learned, before taking it to Kodiak and launching it again,” he said. “Although we haven’t achieved our primary goal today, our team will work hard to find out what happened here,” commented Carolina Grossman, director of product management at Astra.
This launch was the company’s third attempt in less than a year: in September 2020, the Rocket 3.1 rocket had a failure in the steering system, which caused the vehicle to deviate from its planned trajectory and, thus, its engines were slightly deactivated. after leaving the base. As early as December, the Rocket 3.2 rocket nearly reached orbit, but ran out of fuel and the upper-stage engines were prematurely shut down.
This weekend’s mission was the first of two launches under a contract with the US Space Force. Unlike previous flights, this one had a payload on board, designed not to be deployed in orbit, but to collect measurements of the rocket’s launch environment. Thus, the payload would be kept attached to the first stage even if the vehicle had reached orbit.
Source: Space.com, SpaceNews
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