During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.
Astra Space, whose first attempt to orbit satellites failed on Feb. 10, is facing class action lawsuits alleging that the small-satellite launch provider and its officers made false and misleading statements about the company’s capabilities. Astra Space went public last July in a merger with Holicity Inc., a blank check special purpose acquisition company.
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.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AAC PR) — The Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) announces the hiring of Milton B. Keeter Jr. to serve as the Company’s new CEO. Milton will be stepping into the CEO position that has been held by acting CEO John Cramer who has been in place since former CEO Mark Lester left June 30, 2021.
Milton Keeter brings a wealth of space launch experience to Alaska Aerospace. His expertise in launch range safety and FAA space launch licensing is especially strong. Prior to joining Alaska Aerospace, Milton was the Director of Launch Safety and Licensing at ABL Space Systems, El Segundo, Ca. and before that role he was the Vice President of Launch Operations, Head of Safety and Launch Licensing for Astra Space, Inc. Alameda Ca.
Indian startup Agnikul Cosmos signed a framework memorandum of understanding (MOU) with India’s Department of Space on Friday for access to ISRO facilities and expertise for the development of its two-stage small-satellite Agnibaan launch vehicle.
Astra Space will attempt to launch its Rocket 3.3 booster today, Saturday, after a last-second abort on Friday due to a guidance issue. The window for the launch from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska opens at 2 p.m. PDT (2100 UTC).
It will be the third attempt by the California-based company to launch its Rocket 3 booster into orbit. The vehicle is carrying a military payload.
Live streaming will start one hour before launch here.
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USSF PR) — The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center will partner with Astra, a wholly-owned U.S. company based in Alameda, California, to perform a demonstration launch for the Department of Defense from the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska later this month.
The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.
American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.
China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.
Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.
There’s a media report that the Astra Space’s One of Three booster suffered an “anomaly” on Monday while undergoing a dress rehearsal for a launch later this week from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska on Kodiak Island. KMXT radio reports:
No details have been released yet as far as what caused the anomaly or how it may affect the upcoming launch.
At 5 p.m. [Alaska Aerospace CEO Mark] Lester said the emergency response had concluded. “The area is still hazardous and should be avoided. There will be personnel on site overnight to monitor,” he said.
Astra Space is developing a booster capable of launching small satellites into low Earth orbit for a price of only $1 million per flight.
Here’s quick look at the launches scheduled for the rest of March. Information from Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for March 30 is listed. However, unofficial reports say it has been delayed indefinitely due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The booster will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentine.
What the months ahead hold in terms of launch is uncertain. Europe has suspended flights out of its launch base in French Guiana. Whether other spaceports are closed remains to be seen. China appears to have weathered the worst of the virus.
I would expect crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for mid- to late May. It’s difficult to say whether that schedule will hold.
Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C Payloads: 3 Yaogan 30-06 military surveillance satellites Launch Time: Approximately 11:40 p.m. EDT on 23rd (0340 GMT on 24th) Launch Site: Xichang, China