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Bonkers rocket launch sees craft slip sideways, barely climb and tear up terrain
One engine failed a second into flight, but it still managed to reach 50km altitude
Video Ever wondered what happens when one of an orbital class rocket's main engines fails a second into a flight?
US-based low-Earth orbit launch company named Astra found out on Saturday. The video below shows the fun, which starts from about 1:33:30 in the video below.
Here's another view of the launch.
Reviewing flight data and video, two things are very clear - 1) An engine shut down right after launch 2) Everything that happened next made me incredibly proud of our team. Space may be hard, but like this rocket, we are not giving up. #AdAstra pic.twitter.com/2g3n812EaW— Chris Kemp (@Kemp) August 29, 2021
The rocket, LV0006, eventually straightened up and flew right, but did not achieve its mission of reaching space or its desired orbit 415km above terra firma.
"After approximately two minutes and thirty seconds of flight, the range issued an all engine-shutdown command, ending the flight," reads a company statement. "The vehicle achieved an altitude of approximately 50 kilometers, before safely returning to Earth."
The failure is a setback for the company, as its previous mission also failed to reach its desired orbit but did make into space. It's also a setback for the United States Space Force, which had a "non-deployable payload" aboard the rocket.
Nor is it brilliant news for the 50 customers that have already contracted Astra to launch payloads.
- One down, two to go: Astra's first attempt to reach orbit scuppered by iffy guidance
- This way up: James Webb Space Telescope gets ready for shipment after final tests
- The Register recreates Apollo 15 through the medium of plastic bricks, 50 years on
- ESA swamped by over 23,000 applicants for astronaut program
The company is undeterred, as it is only five years old and claims to have made it into orbit faster than any other private company. CEO Chris Kemp also celebrated the fact that LV006 delivered plenty of data. Astra also had a win last week when its Apollo Fusion thruster, an engine designed for use by satellites, successfully fired. The thruster was carried into space aboard SpaceX's June 30th Transporter-2 mission.
LV0006 used Astra's third-generation rocket tech. Its first two prototypes conducted test launches and, while a fourth-gen vehicle is on the drawing board, it's currently working on another gen-three vehicle for a flight later in 2021.
Astra launches from a remote spot near Kodiak, Alaska, so has almost 1000km of the Gulf of Alaska between it and the rest of the USA's most northern state. Events like today's mishap, therefore, pose little danger to land-based lifeforms. ®