Astra launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, today ended in failure a little more than three minutes after takeoff when an unexpected fault arose during flight, preventing the vehicle from reaching orbit. It’s unclear what went wrong, but live footage from the rocket showed it spinning out of control just after the vehicle’s two main stages separated as intended. Astra launched from the Cape for the first time today, after launching from Kodiak, Alaska, for all of its previous missions and test flights.
Today’s mission was for NASA, and it was the first time Astra had launched a payload for the space agency. The launch, dubbed the ELaNa41 mission, carried four small satellites known as CubeSats for NASA, as part of the agency’s ongoing drive to launch experimental small spacecraft into orbit from a variety of sources.
The launch failure caused Astra stock to plummet dramatically on Thursday. Stock prices were down to $3.59 per share at 3:40 ET, down 33% from yesterday’s closing price of $5.29. After completing a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, the company began trading on the Nasdaq last July. was founded in 2016 with the goal of launching low-cost tiny rockets into space. Small satellites from colleges, nonprofits, and other organisations would be carried aboard such small rockets. has launched four times before.