Astra is set to expand its launch footprint, after exclusively flying its first few rockets from Kodiak, Alaska. The startup will fly a mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida for client NASA in January 2022, it announced on Monday morning.
The launch will take place at Space Launch Complex 46 on the sprawling Cape Canaveral Space Force Station grounds, which is a site that was previously used for missile testing before being subsequently deactivated until it was re-opened for commercial space operations in 1997. It saw sporadic use from then until its last mission in 2019.
Astra's planned launch there is not only a big win for the company, but also for the U.S. Space Force's Space Launch Delta 45, a space launch support squadron that is instrumental to launches taking off from U.S. soil. The mission got its necessary approvals in just "months," as compared to multiple years for all the sign-off required for prior space launches.
For Astra, this also means that it'll have another active option for launches, which is important in terms of broadening the scope of what kind of orbits it can target for client payload delivery. Florida is also a popular launch location for reasons that include its historically relatively stable weather systems.
One of Astra's core value propositions is that its rocket is small and its on-site launch operations lightweight enough that it can effectively deploy from a wide range of different sites with minimal personnel and site prep requirements, so diversifying its launch-site pool is also key to demonstrating that in action.
Astra's Benjamin Lyon and Kelyn Brannon will be joining us as speakers at TC Sessions: Space 2021 next week, so be sure to tune in there to learn more about the company's plans for 2022.