Astra Space Rocket 3.3 Fails, 4 Payloads Lost in First Operational Launch Attempt

Scott Manley put together this comparison of second stage separation and ignition of the successful flight no. 7 and today’s failed flight.

Astra Space’s first attempt to place satellites into orbit failed on Thursday, with the company’s Rocket 3.3 tumbling out of control after ignition of the booster’s second stage. Astra’s stock (ASTR) plunged by as more than 31 percent to a low of $3.59 before recovering to $3.91 in after-hours trading.

(more…)

Astra Space Seeks to Launch First Satellites Today

Launch Date Set for NASA CubeSat Mission Aboard Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first mission under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) Demonstration 2 contract is scheduled to launch four CubeSats to space no earlier than Feb. 5, 2022. The CubeSats, which make up the agency’s 41st Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission, will be the first VCLS launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and Astra Space Inc’s first operational satellite launch aboard its Rocket 3.3.

(more…)

Launch Date Set for NASA CubeSat Mission Aboard Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3

Rocket 3 lifts off from Kodiak Island. (Credit: Astra Space webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first mission under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) Demonstration 2 contract is scheduled to launch four CubeSats to space no earlier than Feb. 5, 2022. The CubeSats, which make up the agency’s 41st Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission, will be the first VCLS launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and Astra Space Inc’s first operational satellite launch aboard its Rocket 3.3.

(more…)

Astra Space Conducts Static Fire for Upcoming Launch From Cape Canaveral

ELaNa 41 Mission
NASA Fact Sheet

NASA is preparing to launch four small research satellites, known as CubeSats, that were developed by three universities and NASA’s John­son Space Center. The CubeSats, selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative  (CSLI), are fly­ing on the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa 41) mission. The launch of ELaNa 41 will be Astra Space Inc’s first operational satellite launch. The company is targeting January 2022 for liftoff of its Rocket 3.3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Delays Next Launch Until After Merger Vote

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit has delayed its next satellite launch, originally set for Wednesday, Dec. 22, to next month. The launch will come after shareholders of NextGen Acquisition Corp. II vote on Dec. 28 on whether to merge with Richard Branson’s launch services provider.

The merger with the special purpose acquisition company would allow Virgin Orbit to go public on Nasdaq under its own name. The deal will provide $483 million in capital to allow the company to grow.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Set to Launch on Dec. 22

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit is planning to launch five satellites using its LauncherOne rocket on Dec. 22, according to a U.S. Coast Guard Notice to Mariners.

LauncherOne will be dropped by the Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl over the Pacific Ocean near the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. The launch window will last from 2-5 p.m. PST, the notice said. Backup launch dates are Dec. 23 and January 8-10 from 2:15-5 p.m.

(more…)

NASA Announces 12th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

ELaNa 31 CubeSats, SPOC and Bobcat-1, deploy from the International Space Station on Nov. 5, 2020. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 small research satellites from nine states – including a first-time selected state, Nebraska – to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching between 2022 and 2025. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in October 2020.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Delays Flight Test to Sunday

Cosmic Girl performs a pitch up maneuver during a flight test on April 12, 2020. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Virgin Orbit has delayed the flight test of its LauncherOne booster originally scheduled for Wednesday until Sunday, Jan. 17. Operations are expected to take place between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST (1800-2200 UTC). Your local time may vary; please adjust accordingly.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It will release LauncherOne over the Pacific Ocean west of San Nicolas Island. The rocket’s first stage will fire once the booster is clear of the aircraft.

LauncherOne’s second flight test will carry 10 CubeSats for NASA under the space agency’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. NASA also funded the launch under its Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) program.

LauncherOne’s first flight test failed on May 25, 2020. The first stage fired for about four seconds, but then quit due to a break in a propellant line.

This second flight test is seen as crucial for Virgin Orbit, which is attempting to raise an additional $200 million in investment. Founder Richard Branson has said the company has already raised $1 billion in its effort to reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit Launch Attempt Scheduled for Jan. 10

Cosmic Girl with a fueled LauncherOne on approach to Mojave on April 12, 2020. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The U.S. Coast Guard has posted a Local Notice to Mariners (LNM) that says Virgin Orbit is planning to conduct the second flight test of its LauncherOne rocket off the coast of California on Sunday, Jan. 10.

(more…)

NASA’s ELaNa 20 Mission First to Fly on Virgin Orbit Launch

Virgin Orbit teammates complete a dry run of the payload encapsulation process in Aug. 2020 inside their “Nebula” payload processing facility ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. (Credits: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson)

By Danielle Sempsrott 
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

MOJAVE, Calif. — Ten NASA-sponsored CubeSats are preparing to fly on the agency’s next Educational Launch of Nanosatellites  (ELaNa) mission, making this the first payload carried by Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket.

With the small satellites safely secured inside the payload fairing, and the fairing mated to the rocket, Virgin Orbit is gearing up for ELaNa 20, the Launch Demo 2 flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

(more…)

Shorthanded Virgin Orbit Postpones Launch Due to COVID-19

Closeup on LauncherOne. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Orbit has postponed the second flight of its LauncherOne booster scheduled for Dec. 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced on Saturday.

“Our latest round of contact tracing Friday evening led to a new batch of precautionary quarantines,” Virgin Orbit tweeted. “Consequently, we’ve fallen below the number of staff we feel we require to prudently and safely proceed with pre-launch operations….

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Sets Holiday Season Launch Window

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Virgin Orbit has set a window for its Launch Demo 2 mission. The primary date is Saturday, Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST. There is a similar backup launch window on Dec. 20.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit 747 Flies the Racetrack Over the Pacific Ocean

Credit: FlightAware

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A gloomy Sunday in Mojave didn’t stop Virgin Orbit from getting in some practice for the upcoming second flight test of its LauncherOne rocket.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 conducted a nearly three-hour long practice flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

(more…)

Rocket Lab to Resume Electron Launches on June 11

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab has announced that it will conduct its 12th Electron launch with five satellites aboard from New Zealand on June 11 between 04:43 – 06:32 UTC (12:43 – 02:32 a.m. EDT).

The launch, titled Don’t Stop Me Now, will be the first by the company since late January. Rocket Lab suspended launch operations due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions placed on activities by the New Zealand government. The launch was delayed from March.

(more…)