The Space Coast is welcoming another rocket to its shores.
Astra will launch a NASA mission from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in January, the California rocket builder announced on Monday (Dec. 6). The flight, Astra's first from Florida, will lift off from Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-46.
"This historic launch site has been prepared for a new commercial launch partner in less than [a] year, which is a tremendous milestone for our combined team and illustrates how SLD 45 sets the pace for access to space," Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy, commander of the U.S. Space Force's Space Launch Delta 45, said in an Astra statement (opens in new tab).
"SLD 45, Space Florida and Astra have moved at a rapid speed to demonstrate critical and responsive launch capabilities," added Purdy, who directs the Eastern Range, the organization that oversees launches from the U.S. East Coast. "We are excited to welcome Astra to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station."
Astra did not provide further details about the upcoming flight. However, it could be
ELaNa 41 (opens in new tab), which will loft five tiny cubesats manifested via NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program. Astra holds a contract to launch that mission, whose liftoff has been targeted for the late 2021/early 2022 timeframe (opens in new tab).
Astra builds cost-effective, responsive and ever-evolving rockets designed to give small satellites dedicated rides to space. The company, which is based in California's Bay Area, reached orbit for the first time last month during a test flight for the U.S. military.
That mission, and the three other orbital test flights Astra has launched to date, lifted off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska's Kodiak Island. But the company has long planned to expand its launch operations to multiple sites around the world.
For example, Astra holds a contract to launch NASA's TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) mission. TROPICS will study hurricane formation and evolution using six cubesats, which Astra will launch over the course of three missions next year from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).