Astra Emerges From Stealth, Shooting for $1 Million Per Launch

Astra Introduction Video from Chris Kemp on Vimeo.

Ashlee Vance also has a story at Bloomberg:

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Astra’s next launch is scheduled for Feb. 21 from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island;
  • previous two launches suffered in-flight failures;
  • payload will be up to 450 lb (204 kg) to low Earth orbit;
  • launch cost is $2.5 million, but Astra is working toward $1 million;
  • the company is using aluminum and simplified engines to keep costs down;
  • Astra has a staff of 150 people;
  • Former NASA Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Chris Kemp is CEO;
  • Astra’s CTO and co-founder is Adam London, who spent 12 years running Ventions;
  • The company has raised more than $100 million from investors;
  • Astra is the last of three companies standing in the DARPA Launch Challenge, under which it must launch twice from different locations in two weeks to win $12 million; and,
  • Other competitors included Vector Space, which has filed for bankruptcy, and Virgin Origin, which decided to pull out.

Astra Space Launch Scrubbed at Last Minute

Astra Space scrubbed a suborbital launch of its Rocket 1 booster on Friday just minutes before the scheduled liftoff, according to press reports.

The cause of the scrub is not known. Nor has there been a new date set for another launch attempt from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

The maiden flight of the new booster would have demonstrated the first stage. The vehicle would have carried a dummy second stage.

Formerly known as Ventions, LLC, Astra Space is working under a $2 million contract with NASA to develop and launch a small-satellite booster. The company is based in Alameda, Calif.

NASA CubeSat & Smallsat SBIR, STTR Phase I Awards


NASA is continuing to fund the development of CubeSat and smallsat technology through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Last week, the agency announced it had selected at least 20 research projects focused on these classes of satellites. The proposals were selected for SBIR, SBIR Select and STTR Phase I awards.


The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part II)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)
Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Second of 2 Stories

It was a busy year for a number of commercial space companies. While most of them made considerable progress, the news wasn’t all good.

A Dream Deferred

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had a pretty rough year, losing out on two major contracts and laying off more than 100 employees.

On a Friday in May, just as everyone was preparing for the long Memorial Day weekend, Virgin Galactic announced it was dumping the hybrid rubber motor SNC developed for SpaceShipTwo in favor of a hybrid nylon one produced by Scaled Composites.


NASA Selects Ventions LLC for SBIR Phase I Awards

NASA LOGONASA has selected Ventions, LLC of San Francisco, Calif., for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards, with both projects involving advanced propulsion systems for spacecraft.

Under one contract, Ventions would develop a low-cost, high-performance propulsion system for use on CubeSats. The other project involves the development of on-board pressurization systems for Mars sample return missions.


Ventions Awarded NASA SBIR Funding for Nano-sat Launcher

NASA LOGOVentions LLC of San Francisco has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) worth up to $200,000 to develop an engine for a new launch vehicle capable of delivering nano- and micro-satellites into low Earth orbit.

The goal is to produce a new low-cost rocket capable of launching these satellites into orbit as primary payloads. Currently, these tiny satellites are launched as secondary payloads on much larger vehicles, limiting the number that can be placed in space and requiring much longer wait times.


DARPA Awards 6 Small Airborne Launch Vehicle Contracts

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

DARPA has awarded six contracts for its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is designed to produce a rocket capable of launching a 100-pound satellite into low Earth orbit for less than $1 million. Winners include Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrup Grumman.


Ventions LLC Selected for 2 SBIR Awards

Continuing our look at NASA’s recent SBIR selections, we will examine two awards to Ventions, LLC, a small San Francisco-based R&D company. The company applied for funding for the development of a two-stage launch vehicle for nanosats and cubesats, and for a LOX-cooled propulsion system for sample return missions.

Descriptions of the two projects follow after the break.