At Astra’s Spacetech Day 2022, it unveiled a first look at Rocket 4, the company’s new, larger rocket which is set to have its first test launch later this year.
Up to this point, Astra’s Rocket 3 has been its only orbital vehicle (with Rocket 1 and Rocket 2 being suborbital test vehicles).
At Spacetech Day 2022, the company shared the first details on its upcoming Rocket 4.0, which it’s referring to as Launch System 2. This new rocket will be able to carry heavier payloads into orbit at a low base price of just $3.95 million.
In order to keep the cost low, Astra plans to use economies of scale, while competitors like SpaceX and Rocket Lab are reducing launch costs by reusing the first stages of their rockets. While the company’s CEO Chris Kemp said they would remain open to the idea of reuse, the company’s calculations put the number of reflights required to make economic sense at around 20.
One of the major selling points of a smaller launcher, like Rocket 3, is the control a customer can have over the launch schedule and possibly a lower turnaround time to launch. If a customer with a small payload wants to launch on SpaceX, for instance, they could launch a 200 kg payload to SSO for an estimated $1.1 million – significantly less than Astra’s nearly $4 million starting price for Rocket 4.0. But if you are paying SpaceX for a slot on a rideshare mission, you may not have nearly as much control over when you have access to the payload, exact orbit insertion, and launch date. While Astra may have a higher price per kg launched, that would be a dedicated launch designed around the customer’s payload needs.
Rocket 3 vs Rocket 4
|Rocket 3 | Launch System 1||Rocket 4.0 | Launch System 2|
|Height||~43 ft||64 ft|
|Diameter||52 inches||72 inches|
|First stage engines||5 Delphin engines||2 turbopump fed engines|
|First stage thrust||32,500 lbf||70,000 lbf|
|Second stage thrust||740 lbf||“<2,000 lbf”|
|Payload capacity||150 kg to SSO||300 kg to LEO | 200 kg to SSO|