The newest smallsat launcher to come online is preparing to launch its first mission from Florida’s Space Coast, but it will need to wait for a license from the FAA.
Astra will launch NASA’s ELaNa 41 mission from SLC-46 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, hopefully, this month. Onboard will be five CubeSats from NASA and several universities.
The Educational Launch of Nanosatellites or ELaNa program is NASA’s rideshare program that allows spare space on NASA missions to be filled with payloads from educational institutions in the United States. The program also gives members of NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services program early payloads. This helps stimulate the smallsat launcher industry with customers willing to take higher risk launching on newer rockets.
That is where Astra fits in, and now we must wait for the FAA to grant a launch license to Astra as Chris Kemp, Astra CEO, stated on social media:
Preparations are underway for Astra’s first launch out of Cape Canaveral and first orbital payload delivery for NASA! We will announce launch date/time once we receive our launch license from the FAA and complete static fire.
Astra’s current launch vehicle first went vertical earlier this month, and we have seen it go vertical several more times since then. It will use a multi-use launch complex operated by Space Florida called SLC-46. It can support Minotaur vehicles and vehicles like Astra’s that bring their own launch pad.
The last launch from SLC-46 was NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2 test on a modified Peacekeeper missile back in 2019. Eventually, we expect Astra to move to NASA’s purpose-built open concept launch complex LC-48.
Featured Image: Astra / John Kraus