Astra identifies factors that caused the failure of rocket launch failure in August; it is expected to try again soon
Astra’s next rocket could launch near 27th October
We know what caused Astra’s most recent launch’s dramatic power slide.
On Aug. 28, the Bay Area business tried its third orbital liftoff, launching a two-stage rocket named Launch Vehicle 0006 (LV0006) aloft on a test mission for the US military from Alaska’s Pacific Spaceport Complex.
LV006 initially moved more laterally than vertically, sliding sideways off the pad before regaining its footing and soaring into the Alaska sky. The 43-foot-tall (13-meter) rocket, however, couldn’t fully recover from its initial problems, and the mission was called off 2.5 minutes after liftoff, precisely around “max-Q,” the point at which a rocket’s mechanical stresses is at the highest.
The anomaly has been investigated by Astra and the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the company revealed today i.e. 12th October that the investigation found out a fundamental cause: a fault having propellant-distribution system for LV006’s five first-stage engines.
In a blog post today, Astra executive vice president and chief engineer Benjamin Lyon wrote, “On this launch, propellants escaped from the system, mingled, and became trapped in an enclosed compartment beneath the interface between the rocket and the launcher.”
What are the issues identified?
“The engine exhaust burned the propellants, letting an overpressure activity that destroyed the link to the electronics. It manages the fuel pump, shutting down the engine less than one second after liftoff,” he continued. “Hence, with only four engines generating thrust, the rocket drifted until it could take off. After passing through max-Q, the vehicle resumed its usual trajectory. After that, the vehicle’s four remaining engines lacked sufficient power to propel it into orbit.”
“On top of that,” Lyon also added, “we’ve redesigned and re-qualified the propellant delivery mechanism to minimize fuel leakage and removed the lid to solve the restricted space problem.” “We’ve also strengthened our design and operations verification methods.” We believe that these improvements, taken together, will considerably reduce the likelihood of a repeat occurrence in the future.”
The first attempt, in September 2020, failed due to a guidance fault with Astra’s Rocket 3.1 shortly after liftoff. Its successor made it to space less than three months later, but ran out of fuel just before attaining orbital velocity. Then there was LV006’s sideways shuffle.
In keeping with our launch-and-learn mentality, our crew is eager to get back in the air and learn more about our launch system.” Chris Kemp, Astra’s co-founder, chairman, and CEO, stated in a statement.