Astra reaches orbit for the first time with launch LV0007

Astra is now on the list of private space companies that have successfully reached orbit. Its launch vehicle 0007 (LV0007), which was carrying a test payload for the United States military, took off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska at 1:16 a.m. ET Saturday. After a smooth launch, the 43-foot rocket reached orbit 500 km above Earth about nine minutes later.

“The team has worked so hard on this for so many years,” said Astra CEO Chris Kemp during a livestream after the launch. “We have rocket serial numbers eight, nine, 10 in production, so we’re just getting started.”

The California-based startup’s successful launch follows several failed attempts to reach Earth orbit. The first attempted launch took place during the March 2020 DARPA competition, which tests the ability of missile companies to respond to requests from the US military. Astra was unable to get its rocket off the ground due to technical problems.

Later that year in September, Astra again attempted orbit, but problems with the missile’s guidance system prompted Astra to suspend its flight. Just three months later, the Astra reached space for the first time with its launch of Rocket 3.2, but was unable to successfully slip into orbit after running low on fuel.

Astra’s most recent attempt was in August this year. An engine failure caused the LV0006 to skid over the launch pad during takeoff and the rocket only reached an altitude of 50 kilometers before Astra ended the launch.

Now Astra joins Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Rocket Lab as one of the few US companies to have achieved orbit with a privately owned rocket. You can watch the full launch of the Astra from the NASA Spaceflight YouTube Channel.