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Astra to Launch US Space Force Test Payload Onboard Rocket 3

USSF payload launch

Astra to Launch US Space Force Test Payload Onboard Rocket 3

Launch vehicle company Astra has signed an agreement with the Defense Innovation Unit to execute two launches using the Rocket 3 vehicle.

Under the agreement, Astra’s Rocket 3 will carry a U.S. Space Force test payload during its next attempt to reach orbit.

The first launch will take place from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, SpaceNews reported.

According to the startup, the test payload is part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program, which provides experimental payloads with flight opportunities.

The mission, designated STP-27AD1, is scheduled to begin on Aug. 27 and run through Sept. 11. The mission will showcase “critical low-cost, mobile and responsive launch capability,” Space Test Program Director Col. Carlos Quinones said in a statement.

Following the STP-27AD1 mission, Astra will perform the second launch under the same DIU contract later this year.

The Almeda, California-headquartered launch vehicle developer performed two orbital launch attempts in 2020 using the Rocket 3 vehicle but both attempts failed. In September last year, Rocket 3.1 crashed back to Earth shortly after liftoff because of problems with its guidance systems. In December, Astra’s Rocket 3.2 almost reached orbit but the vehicle’s upper-stage engine shut down prematurely when its fuel ran out.

The company’s 2021 launch agreement with the DIU was awarded through an other transaction agreement and will mark its first commercial orbital launch with the Space Force.

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Category: Space

Tags: Astra Carols Quinones Defense Innovation Unit DIU DoD experimental payloads launch agreement space Space Test Program SpaceNews STP-27AD1 US Space Force USSF