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Astra Space scrubs first launch since rocket failure because of lightning
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 14, 2021

California-based Astra Space scrubbed the launch of a rocket from Alaska on Monday due to a potential for lightning in the area, company officials said.

The attempt was its first return to a launchpad since the company's stock plunged after it suffered a rocket failure during launch of a NASA mission from Florida on Feb. 10.

"Astra scrubbing for the day, due to triggered lightning not improving for the rest of the window," the company's launch controller said on a livestream.

The upcoming launch attempt, known as Spaceflight Astra 1, features three small satellites booked for the flight by Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc., a launch services broker.

The company had planned liftoff of the small LV0009 rocket from Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island around 9:15 a.m. PDT, or 12:15 p.m. EDT. That launch time was delayed by more than 30 minutes while lightning risk was monitored.

A new attempt is now planned at 9:22a.m. PDT, or 12:22 p.m. EDT, on Tuesday, the company announced.

The payloads include spacecraft for the non-profit Portland State Aerospace Society and Indiana-based manufacturer NearSpace Launch.

The Portland group's mini satellite is named OreSat0, which is designed to test methods of monitoring global distribution of high-altitude cirrus clouds. The NearSpace payload, known as S4 Crossover, will remain attached to the rocket's second stage while it measures space radiation and other conditions.

Astra declined to identify the third customer for the mission.

In February, shares of Astra Space ($ASTR) plummeted by more than 32% to $3.59 following the launch failure, but recovered a portion of that loss in subsequent trades.

Astra had warned in a news release Monday that it could postpone the launch until Tuesday if conditions at the launch site warranted.

Spaceflight said it signed an agreement with Astra for launch services through 2025, but it did not disclose the number of launches planned, nor the cost.

The company struck the agreement with Astra to "increase the launch opportunities available to our customers," Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight, said in a news release.

Astra's investigation of the February rocket failure found that the rocket's payload fairing, or nosecone, failed to open fully and on time because separation mechanisms failed to fire in the correct order, according to an Astra statement by Andrew Griggs, senior director of mission management and assurance.

"Our investigation verified that the payload fairing did not fully deploy prior to upper stage ignition due to an electrical issue," Griggs wrote.

"Separately, we discovered a software issue that resulted in the upper stage engine being unable to use its Thrust Vector Control system. This led to the vehicle tumbling after the off-nominal stage separation, and caused the end of the mission," he wrote.

The company said it had made "corrective measures" to address those problems.

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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