California startup Astra aims to launch a satellite to orbit for the first time ever this afternoon (Aug. 26), and you can watch the milestone mission live.
Astra’s Launch Vehicle 006 is scheduled to lift off today from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island during a 4.5-hour window that opens at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT; 12 p.m. local time on Kodiak Island.) You can watch it live via Astra here, but will have to register with Astra. If a simulcast is available, it will be posted on this page.
The 38-foot-tall (12 meters) Launch Vehicle 006 is carrying a test payload for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program. Today’s mission is the first of two that the U.S. Space Force has booked with Astra; the second is expected to launch later this year.
“We are thrilled to partner with Astra on this mission and believe this showcases critical low-cost, mobile and responsive launch capability,” Col. Carlos Quinones, director of the Space Test Program, said in a statement earlier this month, when the contract was announced.
Astra, which was established in 2016, has attempted two orbital test launches to date. The first, in September 2020, failed to reach space after Astra’s rocket suffered a guidance issue early in the flight. Three months later, Astra’s Rocket 3.2 made it to space but ran out of fuel just before reaching orbital velocity.
Full success today would therefore tick two very big boxes for Astra: its first time reaching orbit, and its first satellite deployment.
Astra will notch additional milestones in rapid succession, if all goes according to plan. The Bay Area company plans to claim a large share of the small-satellite launch market with its mass-produced, cost-effective, ever-evolving rockets. Astra aims to be launching missions weekly by the end of 2022 and nearly every day by 2025, CEO and co-founder Chris Kemp has said.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.