Update for 2:15 a.m. EST on Nov. 19: Astra has scrubbed its early-Friday (Nov. 19) launch attempt. The next launch window opens at midnight EST (0500 GMT) on Saturday (Nov. 20).
Astra aims to reach orbit for the first time early Friday morning (Nov. 19), and you can watch the action live.
The Bay Area startup plans to send its Launch Vehicle 0007 (LV0007) skyward from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska's Kodiak Island on Friday during a window that opens at midnight EST (0500 GMT; 8 p.m. local Alaska time on Nov. 18).
Friday's launch is a test mission for the U.S. military. The 43-foot-tall (13 meters) LV0007 will be carrying a dummy payload, just as its predecessor did on Astra's most recent launch.
That liftoff, which occurred from Kodiak on Aug. 28, was a memorable one. The rocket, known as LV0006, performed a horizontal slide off the pad, righted itself a few seconds later and climbed into the Alaska sky. But it couldn't overcome the initial difficulties, and the mission was terminated 2.5 minutes into flight.
Astra soon determined that one of LV0006's five first-stage engines had conked out just after launch, a problem that engineers traced to an issue with the vehicle's propellant-distribution system. That issue has been fixed on LV0007 and other rockets to come, company representatives said.
Astra, which was founded in 2016, intends to secure a large portion of the small-satellite launch market with its line of cost-effective, mass-produced and easily transportable rockets.
The company has conducted three orbital test launches to date, all of them from the Pacific Spaceport Complex. The first flight, which lifted off in September 2020, ended early after Astra's rocket suffered a serious problem with its guidance system.
Astra reached space on the second mission, which launched in December 2020, although the rocket ran out of fuel just before attaining orbital velocity. The third attempt was made by LV006 in August.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.