Saturday, December 11, 2021

Astra to Launch from Cape Canaveral in January

Astra, the California startup in the small sat launch business, announced Monday they will launch from Cape Canaveral this January.  While the company has said that they intend to launch from many places on Earth, their tests to date have been from Kodiak Island, Alaska, at a latitude of 57.4 degrees north while Cape Canaveral is at latitude of 28.4 degrees north; a full 29 degrees lower on the globe.  That translates to more speed toward the east added to the rocket's own as it lifts off for orbit.  After their mission a year ago that made it into space but not quite fast enough to achieve orbit, someone claimed if they had launched from the Cape they would have had the extra 480 meters/second velocity they needed to achieve orbit. 

“This historic launch site has been prepared for a new commercial launch partner in less than year, which is a tremendous milestone for our combined team, and illustrates how SLD 45 sets the pace for access to space.” said Brigadier General Stephen Purdy, Commander of Space Launch Delta 45 and Director of the Eastern Range. “SLD 45, Space Florida, and Astra have moved at a rapid speed to demonstrate critical and responsive launch capabilities. We are excited to welcome Astra to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.”

Astra and Space Launch Delta 45, a part of the United States Space Force, enabled Astra to launch out of Cape Canaveral in record time – shortening the multi-year approval time to months.

“Launching out of the Cape allows us to serve customers with mid-inclination delivery needs, broadening our market,” said Martin Attiq, Chief Business Officer at Astra. “This is an additional step in our global spaceport strategy and positions us to serve the broad low earth orbit (LEO) market.”

Astra’s launch will be livestreamed in partnership with NASASpaceFlight. Updates will be shared on Astra’s Twitter feed, @astra.

I find that second, short paragraph noteworthy; the one that says US Space Force (through Space Launch Delta 45) shortened the multi-year approval time to months.  I hope that's a sign of a coming "new normal" for US Space Force.  

Neither Mrs. Graybeard or I immediately knew where LC46 is and weren't quite sure we'd heard of it; that's especially ironic because she worked fairly close to it, although that was in the late 1980s.  I found  this map which shows its location as being essentially as far to the east that Cape Canaveral protrudes into the Atlantic.  I circled it in red on the map.  Some poking around shows it was used for the Trident missile development in the '70s and '80s.  Note this map cuts off the northern part of the Cape and a few more launch complexes, including LC39A and LC40 where SpaceX launches from.

There is no mention of the mission specifics beyond being a satellite for NASA and no date more specific than January.  I'll have to keep an eye out for more information. 


  1. Cool. Glad the Space Coast is still a factor. SpaceX, BO (as if), ULA and now Astra. Things are busier than they've been in decades.

    1. There's a rumor that the FAA is going to clear the Boca Chica site, but specify SpaceX doesn't do more than some smaller number of launches. I don't recall the number, but I think it was four per year.

      That's not compatible with the vision for Starship, since they talk about landing, refueling and taking off within an hour or two, which means that their normal process of build, test to failure, fix it and test it again doesn't seem like it could work.

      The Cape doesn't have those restrictions, pretty much from being grandfathered in, and that's the impetus behind building a Starship launch facility at 39A.

      Again, all rumors.

    2. Both pilots groups and the FAA don't like restricted airspace and I assume there is a big push against even temporary restrictions at BC.
      This issue is one of the big reasons that all launches, so far, happen from existing military ranges where available restricted airspace means that the FAA is (mostly) out of the picture.