Astra Space Scrubs Launch; Next Opportunity on Monday

Rocket 3.3 lifts off from Kodiak Island. (Credit: Astra Space webcast)

Astra Space scrubbed the first operational launch of its Rocket 3.3 booster on Saturday after a radar system that would track the flight malfunctioned.

Astra tweeted that it is working to reschedule the NASA-sponsored launch for Monday, Feb. 7. The rocket will orbit four CubeSats developed by: New Mexico State University, Las Cruces; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; University of California, Berkeley; and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The U.S. Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 45, which provides tracking for the Eastern Test Range, tweeted that it developed a problem with a radar system.

“SLD 45 has isolated the radar system issue and is working a solution. We are prepared to support the next launch opportunity,” the tweet said.

This is Astra’s first flight with satellites aboard, and the first from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The company conducted its first successful launch in November when Rocket 3.3 placed a dummy payload into orbit after liftoff from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska.

NASA is paying for the launch under its Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) Demonstration 2 contract. VCLS provides funding to small satellite launch providers to demonstrate their launch vehicles.

The CubeSats make up NASA’s 41st Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission. The spacecraft were selected through the space agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). The initiative provides launch opportunities for small satellite payloads built by universities, high schools, NASA Centers, and non-profit organizations.

CSLI has selected over 200 CubeSats, with more than 100 satellites being launched to date. More than 30 mis­sions are scheduled for launch within the next 12 months. The selected CubeSats represent participants from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 102 unique organizations.