Astra misses orbit again, SpaceX and Blue Original launch, leaked anti-SpaceX emails from ULA & more top stories

This week Astra launched their 5th test rocket which didn’t reach orbit again, both SpaceX and Blue Origin launched missions for NASA, and emails possibly leaked from ULA show their dark side.

Astra’s newest test rocket fails to reach orbit

The long-awaited next launch from secretive smallsat launch provider Astra took place over the weekend. Astra has been chasing orbit for some time now, with their 4th test flight reaching space just shy of the needed speeds to stay in orbit.

This weekend Astra rolled their Rocket 3.3 out to their launch site on Kodiak Island, Alaska. This version featured a stretched first stage to hold more fuel and other improvements from their 3.2 variant. After a rough countdown full of holds and an aborted launch the day before, teams finally released the rocket from its launch stand.

Astra’s Rocket 3.3 tilting sideways as one of the 5 first stage engines shutdown at liftoff. Credit: Astra / NASASpaceFlight

That’s where the issues began, Astra confirmed that they had an early shutdown of one of the 5 Dolphin first stage engines. This caused the rocket to perform what the industry calls a “powerslide” off the pad, moving horizontally for quite a distance before burning off enough fuel to be light enough for the remaining 4 engines to lift it vertically.

Eventually, Astra’s launch control team terminated the launch and the rocket fell back to Earth and splashed down into the Pacific Ocean. Astra announced they will begin a review of the anomaly and hope to bring a new rocket out to try for orbit again.

You can see the scorched ground made by the rocket hovering just feet above it. Credit: Astra / NASASpaceFlight

SpaceX

A Shortfall of Gravitas catches first booster for CRS-23 mission to the ISS

A few hours after Astra’s launch attempt SpaceX was up next to launch their Falcon 9 rocket. This launch was for NASA as part of their Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to launch fresh supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.

This launch ended a long drought of launches from the East Coast as SpaceX continues to work on getting their second-generation Starlink satellites ready. This mission also was the debut landing for SpaceX’s newest droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas. The ship performed perfectly. Octograbber has secured the booster, so ASOG is now on its way back to Port Canaveral.

Earlier in the week, users of SpaceX’s global internet service Starlink reported not being unable to connect to satellites. These reports came from across the globe from most of the countries that SpaceX’s beta program operates in.

After a few hours, most of the users reported having some service back and by the end of the day very few users reported having any issues. SpaceX previously stated that outages should be expected throughout the beta process, still, the company nor Elon Musk never commented on the outage.

Blue Origin launches 17th New Shepard mission

The first launch of the week wasn’t a test flight or orbital launch, it was the launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, this time uncrewed and full of experiments mostly funded by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

Photo of one of the pieces of artwork that were displayed on the New Shepard capsule. Credit: Blue Origin

The launch went off with just a few holds that ended up pushing the launch back about an hour. This was the 17th mission for New Shepard and the 4th for the year. Blue Origin shared we should expect a 2nd possible crewed launch later this year.

United Launch Alliance leaked emails attacking SpaceX and Elon Musk

One of the most shocking stories to come out this week was the leak of alleged emails between a ULA executive and a union lobbyist. The emails made some verifiable and some not-so verifiable claims about SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk. Some of the biggest claims being Musk’s company was awarded contracts under the previous administration due to his support for former President Trump and because they do not support unions.

ULA did not confirm the emails were real but they are investigating the matter.

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