On its upcoming flight, Astra will debut an improved version of its small launch vehicle, which will boost the spacecraft’s payload capacity.
The launch, slated for a window that starts August 27 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska on the Kodiak Island, will become the debut of the Rocket 3.3 model of the rocket, according to Chris Kemp, Astra’s chief executive. Stretching the tanks in the first stage of the rocket to raise the quantity of propellant which they can hold, lowering the upper stage’s mass, adding sensors to offer data about the vehicle’s flight environment, and combining upwards of a dozen unspecified elements on the upper stage into one single unit are among the upgrades.
“Any alteration to a complex system such as a rocket is always risky,” he explained. “We appreciate it, but we also feel that in order to maximize our learning, we must make progress and take reasonable technological risks.” The rocket, codenamed LV0006, has been sent to Kodiak and is expected to arrive on August 16, when an Astra crew will complete final launch preparations, such as a wet dress rehearsal in which the rocket will be fueled for the simulated countdown. The mission’s launch window is open until September 11th, although the firm has not specified how many hours per day it would be open.
The deployment will be the first of two planned as part of a Space Force award issued on August 5 and arranged using the Defense Innovation Unit’s other transaction authority. The corporation only indicated at the time that a “test payload,” dubbed STP-27AD1 by Space Force, would be on the launch. The payload, according to Kemp, would not be an operational satellite but rather a technology to measure the rocket’s launch environment. “It’s basically there to evaluate the loads and conditions so that they can forecast the effect on their satellite when we perform our next deployment with the Space Force.”
The flight will be the company’s first since its Rocket 3.2 vehicle failed to reach orbit on a flight from Kodiak in 2020 December. Despite the vehicle’s failure to reach orbit, the corporation says the launch demonstrated the vehicle’s “orbital launch capabilities.” Because of the push which launches get from the Earth’s rotation while travelling east, he said, “an equally performing liftoff from the Cape Canaveral, for instance, would have entered orbit at our goal orbital velocity and target altitude.” “Deploying to the polar orbits, like as from Kodiak, Alaska necessitates a higher level of performance than launching to low-inclination orbits.”