Rocket builder Astra reaches orbit for the first time

The LV0007 rocket takes off during the company’s first successful orbital launch from Kodiak, Alaska on November 20, 2021.

Astra / NASA Space flight

Astra Space first reached orbit on Saturday with its LV0007 rocket, joining a small group of privately-owned companies that have achieved the feat.

The company launched the rocket, which carried a test payload for the US Space Force, from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska. After taking off cleanly from the ground, the rocket passed through each stage of the launch before reaching its target orbit about nine minutes later at an altitude of about 500 kilometers.

“It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp said on the company’s webcast.

“The team has worked so hard on this for so many years and… seeing iteration after iteration, failure after failure lead to success; everyone is just incredibly passionate,” Kemp added.

Astra joins SpaceX, Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit in the group of US companies that have reached orbit with a privately funded rocket.

The company’s rocket is 43 feet tall and fits into the small rocket segment of the launch market. Astra’s goal is to eventually launch as many small rockets as possible, with the goal of launching one rocket per day by 2025 and lowering its price even further by $ 2.5 million.

While Astra first reached space in December 2020, the company had yet to reach orbit. Its last attempt in August slipped significantly off the platform before eventually failing to reach orbit.

Astra went public earlier this year after finalizing a SPAC merger, the company raising funds to expand production of its small rockets, expand its facilities in Alameda, Calif., And expand its spacecraft and spaceport business.

“Keeping doing that is incredibly difficult – we have the rocket serial numbers 8, 9, 10 in production, so we’re just getting started,” Kemp said on the webcast.

Astra, VP of Manufacturing Bryson Gentile, left, and CEO Chris Kemp remove a protective cover from a rocket half fairing.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Astra has partnered with NASASpaceflight – a space industry content organization that is not affiliated with the U.S. agency – to webcast Saturday’s launch.

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