Astra Space fails to put satellites into orbit

Shares of Astra Space, which went public in July, were dented by the news, dropping as much as 38% during Thursday’s Nasdaq trading to an all-time low of $3.25. It closed at $3.91, down 26%.

The California-based Astra Corporation’s two-stage, kerosene-powered “Launch Vehicle 0008” also known as “Rocket 3.3” was carrying four miniature research satellites, or “cubes,” for NASA. 3 of them were developed by public universities and one by the space agency itself.

News of the mission failure came about 14 minutes after the 38-foot rocket lifted off at 3:00 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral and soared across the clear blue skies of Florida in what at first glance appeared to be a smooth flight.

“An unspecified in-flight problem occurred that prevented our customers’ payloads from being delivered to orbit,” said Carolina Grossman, Astra’s director of product management.

“More information will be announced when we finish reviewing the data,” she said, adding that the company “deeply regrets our customers.”

The failed flight came on the third launch attempt for the mission designated by NASA as “Ilana 41”.

The company had halted the previous attempt on Monday before the rocket’s engines went live. Astra Space officials said Monday’s launch was automatically canceled when the systems discovered a small measurement flaw, which they later said was resolved and would not have affected the flight in any way.

Astra is one of a growing group of new companies building small payload transport systems to take advantage of the growing appetite for launching compact satellites into orbit.

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