Rocket launch startup Astra, which had been attempting to claim DARPA’s prize for successful demonstration of flexible space launch capabilities until earlier this month, will not be moving forward with an attempted flight of its launch vehicle this week as planned. The company’s “One of Three” rocket ran into an “anomaly” during pre-launch testing in preparation for its flight this week, and the schedule for a make-up launch is currently is currently up in the air.
“Astra’s launch vehicle ‘One of Three’ suffered an anomaly following an otherwise successful day of testing in Kodiak in preparation for a launch this week,” explained Astra CEO and founder Chris Kemp via email. “Fortunately, our own hardware was the only thing harmed, and our team is already hard at work to determine the root cause so that we can improve the vehicle’s design. As a result of yesterday’s anomaly we will no longer be attempting a launch this week. We do intend to attempt another launch from Kodiak once conditions with coronavirus improve and we have resolved the cause of yesterday’s incident.”
Astra’s launches are set to take off from Kodiak Launch Complex, which is located at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. The company had challenges with weather conditions leading up to its attempts to win the $2 million DARPA prize, the deadline for which expired at the beginning of March, but the anomaly yesterday had to do with the vehicle hardware itself, and not external conditions. Local news additionally reported this morning that while the emergency response triggered by the anomaly had ended, the “area is still hazardous and should be avoided,” according to Alaska Aerospace CEO Mark Lester.
Kemp also cited the current coronavirus crisis in his statement to TechCrunch, and while that doesn’t look like it contributed to any technical issues, the ongoing global pandemic definitely seems likely to impact any attempted work that would involve repairs or rescheduling the launch at this time.