The Bay Area startup’s 43-foot-tall (13 meters) Launch Vehicle 0007 (LV0007) lifted off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island on Saturday (Nov. 20) at 1:16 a.m. EST (0616 GMT), carrying a dummy payload on a test flight for the U.S. military.
Just nine minutes later, LV0007’s upper stage slipped into orbit about 310 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth, notching a huge milestone for Astra. “We are absolutely bursting with pride at LV0007 — lucky number seven,” Carolina Grossman, Astra’s director of product management, said during a webcast of the launch. “This represents a huge, huge step in our mission to improve life on Earth from space.”
Astra, which was founded in 2016, aims to secure a large portion of the small-satellite launch market with its line of cost-effective, ever-evolving rockets. Those rockets are designed to be highly responsive and flexible as well; Astra’s entire launch system can be transported in just a few standard shipping containers.
The company already has a number of customers, some of whom are very high-profile. For example, in May, Astra announced that it had inked a launch contract with San Francisco company Planet, which operates the world’s largest fleet of Earth-observing satellites.