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Astra launch reaches orbit, cheers investors

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Astra launch reaches orbit, cheers investors
An Astra rocket is launched from Alaska on Friday night, carrying a Department of Defense test payload. Photo courtesy of Astra

Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The stock price for small-rocket company Astra Space, of California, rose more than 30% at one point Monday after the firm reached orbit for the first time over the weekend, carrying a U.S. Space Force test payload from Alaska.

The Astra Rocket 3 was only the seventh one built by the company based in Alameda, near San Francisco. Astra Space now joins the small number of commercial orbital launchers -- SpaceX, Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit, all three of which also are based in California.

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Astra's stock closed at $11.17, up 17.2%.

"Reaching orbit is a historic milestone for Astra," Chris Kemp, Astra founder and CEO, said in a news release. "We can now focus on delivering for our customers and scaling up rocket production and launch cadence."

RELATED New rocket company Astra plans Nasdaq listing

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted an acknowledgement of Astra's Friday night achievement the next day on Twitter, saying "Congrats! Orbit is not easy."

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

RELATED Astra rocket fails after liftoff from Alaska

Astra includes former NASA and SpaceX executives, led by Kemp, a former NASA chief technology officer.

An Astra rocket reached space for the first time in August 2020, but failed to achieve orbit around the Earth.

The launch Friday, known as STP-27AD2, lifted off from Astra's launch complex at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska.

RELATED Astra aborts small-rocket launch for Space Force from Alaska

The Department of Defense's Space Test Program, or STP, provides launches for military and intelligence agencies. The department doesn't reveal much detail about the items that are launched.

Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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