After several failures, the US space company Astra Space is mothballing its rocket 3 and wants to concentrate entirely on its successor – the “Rocket 4”. According to Spacenews, NASA was surprised by this step, the US space agency has booked two more launches. Of a total of seven launches of a “Rocket 3” in various versions, only two were successful, most recently two NASA satellites were lost in mid-June.
ArsTechnica writes that the move away from the rocket used to date will probably also be accompanied by a change in strategy at Astra Space. If the company has previously assumed that customers would accept a higher risk for lower prices, it now wants to proceed differently there.
NASA is looking for alternatives
Astra Space announced the move away from the rocket it is currently using and towards its more powerful successor when it recently presented its quarterly figures. For this reason, no more launch attempts will be made this year and it is not yet clear whether rocket 4 will take off for the first time in 2023, writes ArsTechnica. During the last launch attempt by a Rocket 3 on June 12, two small satellites belonging to NASA’s Tropics mission were lost. With two further launches, Astra Space should actually bring four of them into space. The mission is part of a NASA program for cheaper and riskier launches by young space companies, and it could also work with four satellites.
According to Spacenews, the planned rocket 4 from Astra Space is not so well suited for the remaining Tropics satellites, it is intended to carry much larger satellites into a different orbit. Because the planned orbit of the Tropics orbiter is quite unusual, flights with other launches are out of the question. In any case, NASA was surprised by the farewell to rocket 3, and possible alternatives were still being examined.
It is not known who will bear the costs of a possible change. In any case, Astra Space’s decision is not honored on the stock exchange: the share had already lost significantly after the most recent false start, but after the announcement it dropped again by almost 20 percent to USD 1.29 now.
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