ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — There were no injuries when a test rocket fired by an aerospace company crashed and exploded on a hillside on an Alaska island, officials said.
The rocket operated by Astra from the nearby Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska crashed on Kodiak Island Friday, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
The newspaper reported that Mark Lester, president of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which operates the spaceport, said in a radio interview that the fire caused by the crash was put out quickly and no one was hurt.
“The launch was terminated early, which is part of our safety process,” Lester said. “We are prepared for these things. The key is public safety, and everything we did to keep the air, waterways and land free from the public is exactly why we do that in conditions like this.”
Astra's Rocket 3.1 appeared to experience “slight oscillation,” causing the rocket to drift from its planned trajectory and the flight safety system shut down its engines, the company said on its website.
The startup firm with a goal of delivering satellites for frequent flights in low-Earth orbits said the launch was a successful step in its development plans.
“We didn’t meet all of our objectives, but we did gain valuable experience, plus even more valuable flight data,” Astra said. “This launch sets us well on our way to reaching orbit within two additional flights, so we’re happy with the result.”
The company plans to spend the following weeks analyzing data. Astra's Rocket 3.2 is already built, the company said.
Eric Van Dongen of Anchorage and his father, Marc Van Dongen, paused their hunting trip to watch the launch with other families who gathered in a designated safe zone.
“When it hit the ground and exploded, that was definitely very intense,” Eric Van Dongen said. “And then we felt shortly after a shock wave come through.”
They were relieved because shrapnel and debris did not fly toward them, he said.