Astra to abandon the Rocket 3 carrier line

Astra Space has announced the abandonment of further operation of the Rocket 3 carrier line. Instead, the company will focus on developing a more powerful rocket Rocket 4, which is expected to begin flights in 2024.

Series of accidents Astra Space

Astra Space was founded in 2016. Like many other aerospace companies that came to the market as a result of the “new space”, it bet on the creation of a small rocket designed to put small loads into orbit. The carrier received the designation Rocket 3.

The Rocket 3 carrier at the launch pad of the Kodiak complex. Source: John Kraus/Astra

Rocket 3 is a two-stage liquid rocket powered by a kerosene/liquid oxygen fuel pair. Its length is 11.6 meters, it can put up to 50 kg of cargo into a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). When developing Rocket 3, Astra Space relied on the cheapness of its manufacture. It is claimed that one rocket launch costs the company only $ 2.5 million.

Launch Rocket 3. Source: Brady Kenniston

Unfortunately, Rocket 3’s path to space turned out to be very difficult. Before reaching space, Astra Space lost four carriers — one due to a fire on the launch pad and three more during the launch. After Rocket 3 finally managed to put the cargo into orbit, it seemed that the company had found the right path and would now be able to gradually increase the reliability of the carrier. However, of the three subsequent launches, two ended in accidents, including a mission carried out by Astra Space commissioned by NASA

Rocket 3 Replacing

Constant accidents did not have the best effect on both the share price of Astra Space and its overall reputation. In an attempt to rectify the situation, the company’s management decided to abandon the further use of Rocket 3. Instead, it will focus all efforts on developing a more powerful Rocket 4 carrier. All current Astra Space contracts will be transferred to this rocket. 

Rocket 4.0 (concept). Source: Astra Space

The Rocket 4 project was first announced in May of this year. Then it was reported that the length of the rocket will be 19.4 m, height — 1.8 m, load capacity — up to 300 kg of cargo for low Earth orbits (LEO) and up to 200 kg for sun-synchronous orbits.

However, apparently, these are not the final figures yet. Recently, Astra Space announced its intention to make changes to the design of the rocket, which will increase its payload capacity to 600 kg per LEO. At the moment, the first launch of the new rocket is scheduled for 2024.

According to

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