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Commercial Space Race Adds New Player, But First Launch Fizzles

Elon Musk Sent A Classy and Encouraging Tweet Noting SpaceX's Early Woes

Space is hard... rockets are harder... so says one of the many variations on a theme that is echoed here and there throughout the commercial space community.

A new commercial space player, Astra, planned a major launch attempt this [part weekend from their facilities in Alaska, stating that they expected to make three tries before they were successful in launching a vehicle into Low earth Orbit... they weren't wrong.

The Saturday launch attempt took place at 2019PT with "Rocket 3.1" -- and launch they did. However; shortly after launch, the vehicle  reportedly encountered problems, as noted in the Astra post flight blog entry... "Preliminary data review indicates the rocket performed very well. Early in the flight, our guidance system appears to have introduced some slight oscillation into the flight, causing the vehicle to drift from its planned trajectory leading to a commanded shutdown of the engines by the flight safety system. We didn’t meet all of our objectives, but we did gain valuable experience, plus even more valuable flight data. This launch sets us well on our way to reaching orbit within two additional flights, so we’re happy with the result."

The small space company's efforts and first launch failure was not ignored by the current heavyweight in Commercial Space systems -- Elon Musk... who provided a classy bit of context to the event. "Sorry to hear that. I’m sure you’ll figure it out though. Took us four launches to reach orbit. Rockets are hard," noted Musk.

And Astra appreciated the thought... "Thanks, @elonmusk. We appreciate that and are encouraged by the progress we made today on our first of three flights on our way to orbit.

Sorry to hear that. I’m sure you’ll figure it out though. Took us four launches to reach orbit. Rockets are hard.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2020

In the meantime, the Astra blog outlined their ongoing development strategy, "This was our first orbital launch attempt, and the first flight of a rocket designed from the ground-up for low cost mass production and highly-automated launch operations. The entire launch system was deployed by six people in less than a week – completely unprecedented.

Astra’s strategy is to learn fast through iterative development. Although we’re pleased with today’s outcome, we still have more work to do to reach orbit. Once we reach orbit, we will relentlessly continue to improve the economics of the system as we deliver our customers’ payloads.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be taking a close look at the flight data to determine how to make the next flight more successful. Rocket 3.2 is already built and ready for another big step towards orbit. Thank you to our incredible team and their families, all of our supporters, and stay tuned for updates over the next few weeks. We’ll be back to the pad before you know it!"

We'll keep you updated.

FMI: www.astra.com, https://twitter.com/i/status/1304626860853141505

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