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Astra Rocket Fails US Military Test Launch

Rocket 3.3 slid sideways before heading towards the sky and the launch had to be scrubbed minutes later.

Astra Rocket Fails US Military Test Launch
Astra rocket sliding sideways NASASpaceflight/YouTube

Replicating success is easy. You find out what works and keep repeating it to perfection. This formula works everywhere and every single time with the exception of rocket science. After tasting success and reaching space on the previous mission, California-based rocket makers Astra's Launch Vehicle 0006 failed during a test for the U.S. military.  

 

Rocket launches have been billion-dollar affairs taking years to come to fruition. But after private players like SpaceX have jumped in, costs of launching satellites have softened, making it easier for companies to launch their own satellites. However, the Californian startup believes that there is more room for cost reduction by making rockets at scale instead of making them as artisanal pieces and one at a time. 

Launched in 2016, the startup has accelerated the development and evolution of its rockets using mass-produced parts while reducing the costs of the launch. In December last year, the company joined the ranks of NASA and SpaceX in sending its rocket into space. What is really impressive about this launch is that there were only five people on the ground for this launch. 

But its next iteration did not go as planned. After a successful earlier launch, the company added some planned upgrades for this flight, according to a Q and A released on the eve of the planned launch. The launch was then aborted seconds before the launch due to an engine configuration issue, Space.com reported. But even with launch delayed by a day, nobody could have guessed that the rocket would move sideways on its lift-off. 

The rocket lifted off as scheduled at 3:55 PM PT, but within a second, one of the main engines failed. While it resumed its flight towards space, approximately two minutes and thirty seconds into the mission, all engines were shut down and the rocket returned to Earth after traveling a distance of 31 miles (50 km), the press release said.

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During the sideways movement, the rocket burned fuel, making it light enough to be lifted off by the four working engines, CEO Chris Kemp, said in a postflight briefing, according to Space.com. The mission was a test one for the US military and there was no payload that had to be put in orbit, the website said. 

As Kemp said in his tweet, the company will review the valuable data gained from this failure. Made out of inexpensive aluminum, and assembled like cars, the company plans to launch many more missions next year, even aiming for a daily launch frequency, somewhen in the future.

Here's a full version of the LV0006 test flight. 

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