Astra’s first Florida launch fails after seemingly successful first stage flight

Today Astra launched its Rocket 3.3 vehicle from Florida. This was the company’s first launch from the Space Coast, with all previous launches taking place out of Alaska. While the rocket successfully lifted off, the rocket failed to deliver its payloads to orbit, an issue with the fairing is possibly to blame.

This launch has been a bit delayed, with attempts scrubbing due to weather, range equipment issues, and the Monday launch attempt aborting right after engine ignition.

Today the weather was much nicer, with moderate temperatures and crowds gathering on beaches around Cape Canaveral in anticipation. To the casual observer, the launch went off without a hitch, but those watching Astra’s stream knows had a uniquely up-close view at second stage ignition.

Right after the call for main engine cutoff, at three minutes and seven seconds into flight, the stream shows a shift and sudden jolt, as if the fairings didn’t deploy fully when they were meant to. After second engine ignition, the two stages seem to have separated, with the second stage spinning.

Credit Astra/ NASASpaceflight

The company didn’t reveal much more info, posting the following statement on Twitter:

We experienced an issue during today’s flight that resulted in the payloads not being delivered to orbit. We are deeply sorry to our customers @NASA and the small satellite teams. More information will be provided after we complete a data review.

This is still early in Astra’s history as a company, so some failures are expected. Nonetheless, the company has had its fair share of failed launches already and clearly expected success on this mission, as it has four customer payloads on board.

Investors were certainly not pleased to see this failure, and the stock plummeted from $5.68 to around $3.59, and that’s despite multiple halts to trading.

Hopefully, the company will provide some insight into what exactly went wrong, and can improve the rocket to come out the other side with a better launch vehicle.

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