Astra's third rocket launch failed

Astra recently attempted its third rocket launch aimed to put a simulated military payload into orbit. The third launch attempt happened on August 28 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Unfortunately for Astra, its launch failed about two and a half minutes into liftoff.

It was clear from the get-go that the launch wasn't going as expected. Rather than rising straight into the air from the launchpad, the rocket traversed sideways briefly before heading into the sky. Ultimately the rocket reached an altitude of 20.5 miles before it shut down. Astra said the shutdown happened near the point where mechanical stresses are the highest on the rocket.

Cameras attached to the rocket to monitor the flight showed a part breaking off right around the time the rocket shut down. Astra acknowledged that it hadn't reached its objective and said its team would work to figure out what exactly went wrong. The company is already looking forward to its next flight attempt.

The rocket used in this failed launch was Launch Vehicle 0006 and is part of the Astra Rocket 3.3 series. Along with the loss of the rocket, a payload from the US Department of Defense Space Test Program was also lost. However, the payload was only a mass simulator rather than an operational satellite, so the loss isn't an issue.

Interestingly, the launch was supposed to happen on Friday, August 27, but the rocket's guidance system aborted the launch shortly after the engines ignited. Engineering teams sorted the problem out, which was determined to be an engine configuration issue. They were able to get the rocket ready for liftoff and attempt the launch again. It's unclear if the rocket's failure had anything to do with the issue that stopped the first launch attempt.