Astra, a California commercial space launch company, had an unusual third attempt at reaching orbit on Saturday when its rocket seemingly recovered from a launch pad mishap only to tumble out of control a couple of minutes later. Astra is a Silicon Valley startup with a potentially lucrative list of military and commercial customers and was carrying a dummy payload (or mass simulator) for the U.S. Air Force from a spaceport on the remote Kodiak Island southwest of Anchorage.
Shortly after ignition, something exploded on the business end of the rocket, blowing it sideways off the launch pad. But instead of blowing, as most of these anomalies end up, the rocket righted itself and staggered into the air. To the upbeat commentary of the company play-by-play announcers, the rocket gathered speed and headed up. But about 150 seconds after the initial drama, the onboard cameras showed the vehicle careering out of control at an altitude of about 20.5 miles before it was intentionally blown up. Astra CEO Chris Kemp said the data captured will help the company prepare for the next attempt and that rocket is already being built.