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Astra aborts small-rocket launch for Space Force from Alaska

Astra aborts small-rocket launch for Space Force from Alaska
Astra Space readies the Rocket 3.3 for launch from Alaska. Photo courtesy of Astra Space

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- California-based Astra Space, a relatively new rocket company, aborted the launch of its first payload, an experiment for the U.S. Space Force, from Alaska on Friday.

The company did not explain immediately the reason for the abort at 5:45 p.m. EDT on a livestream provided by space media publication NASAspaceflight.com.

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The launch window stretches to Sept. 11 at the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, about 400 miles south of Anchorage.

"We are going to stand down today to troubleshoot the abort," a company official said on the livestream. "There's plenty of time for us to try again."

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The Space Force awarded Astra a contract, announced Aug. 9, for the launch as part of a program designed to foster more launch companies' space activities. The company plans one more launch for the Space Force by the end of the year.

"We need this ... contract to continue to introduce speed, agility and flexibility into the launch enterprise and continue to cultivate a resilient and affordable launch market." Lt. Col. Justin Beltz, chief of Launch Enterprise's Small Launch and Targets division, said in a news release.

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The launch, the company's third, will use Astra's Rocket 3.3.

The new version of the rocket can carry more fuel and go farther than the last rocket that was launched in December.

The company, which is publicly traded, acknowledged during an Aug. 12 teleconference that making such changes comes with risk.

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"Maximizing our learning requires us to make advances and take appropriate technical risks," Astra founder and CEO Chris Kemp said during the call. Kemp is a former NASA chief technology officer.

The company didn't release details about the payload, except to say that it will contain sensors that will monitor conditions during launch for future Space Force missions.

Astra's rocket is relatively small at just over 38 feet, compared to SpaceX's Falcon 9, which is more than 229 feet high. The Electron rocket used by small launch company Rocket Lab is 56 feet high.

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Out-of-this-world images from space

This composite image made from six frames shows the International Space Station, with a crew of seven aboard, in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly 5 miles per second on April 23, 2021, as seen from Nottingham, Md. Aboard are: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Mark Vande Hei; Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Pyotr Dubrov; and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Joining the crew aboard station the next day were Crew-2 mission crew members: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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