SpaceX and NASA alumni just took another company to space for the first time

Startup Astra sends its Rocket 3.2 on a short trip to space from Alaska.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects, and CNET's "Living off the Grid" series Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack

Rocket 3.2 before launch at Kodiak spaceport in Alaska.


There's a new name to take seriously in the commercial space launch game following the launch on Tuesday of Astra's Rocket 3.2 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska's Kodiak Island.

This was the second in a series of three demonstration launches meant to show that the company can make it to orbit. The first launch in September saw Rocket 3.1 get off the ground, only to shut down early and crash near the launch pad.

Tuesday's attempt didn't see Astra make it to orbit just yet, but the rocket did pass the Karman Line, which is widely considered to be the edge of space.

The vehicle didn't carry a payload on the test flight, but the company aims to offer launch services for small satellites and other payloads of a class similar to what Rocket Lab has already begun to deliver.

Astra's leadership team boasts plenty of space industry experience. Founder and CEO Chris Kemp was CTO of NASA and engineering head Chris Thompson was on the founding team of SpaceX. The company hopes to compete with the likes of Rocket Lab by offering affordable access to orbit on a regular schedule.

Tuesday's launch wasn't livestreamed, but Astra did tweet updates and later released the above video summary of the mission.

No word on when the next test flight might take place. The company is already taking reservations for its first small satellite launches.