“Explosive Astra Rocket Mishap: Rare 2020 Footage of Failed Prelaunch Testing”

Footage obtained by TechCrunch shows the catastrophic ending that Astra’s Rocket 3.0 suffered during prelaunch testing in March 2020. “I can confirm we had an anomaly on the launch pad,” Alaska Aerospace CEO Mark Lester told local reporters at the time. At the time, Astra was taking such failures in stride. The deal is expected to close sometime this quarter, at which time Astra will cease trading on the Nasdaq. Astra did not return a request for comment on the 2020 launch failure.

In March 2020, TechCrunch obtained footage of the catastrophic fate that befell Astra’s Rocket 3.0 during prelaunch testing at Alaska’s Pacific Spaceport Complex.

The explosion was simply labeled as an “anomaly”, a term used in the industry to describe any deviation from expected outcomes.

“We had an anomaly on the launch pad,” confirmed Alaska Aerospace CEO Mark Lester to local reporters. “Our emergency checklist is in motion, and we kindly request that everyone stay clear of the area to allow our crew to handle the situation.”

At the time, Astra CEO Chris Kemp informed TechCrunch that the rocket had “suffered an anomaly” after an otherwise successful day of testing in Kodiak in preparation for a launch. He explained that the company’s hardware was the only thing affected. However, he also stated to another publication that Astra would not attempt another launch until the coronavirus situation improved. In truth, there was no longer a rocket left to launch.

The video footage reveals the micro launcher bursting into flames and ultimately not surviving the incident. This would have been Astra’s third attempt at an orbital launch.

Despite these setbacks, Astra remained focused on its goals. When the company first emerged in 2022, it was with a strong conviction that it could produce rockets at a high volume and low cost, with potential failures factored into their approach. Kemp reiterated this mindset in a May 2022 interview by saying, “There is an expectation that every launch has to be perfect. But what Astra has to do is keep launching so frequently that it becomes a non-issue.”

Finally, in November 2021 and March 2022, Astra achieved orbit for the first and second time, respectively.

Astra had gained a lot of attention from space industry investors, going public in July 2021 with a $2.1 billion valuation after raising almost $500 million for its plans of ultra-low-cost launches. However, these plans did not come to fruition, and after months of financial struggles, Astra’s board quietly accepted a take-private deal proposed by Kemp and CTO Adam London at a stock price of $0.50 per share. This deal is expected to be finalized within this quarter, at which point Astra will no longer be traded on the Nasdaq.

A request for comment on the 2020 launch failure from Astra went unanswered.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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