Live coverage of the countdown and launch of Astra’s Rocket 3.3 from pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission will launch four CubeSats developed by universities and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

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Astra’s first launch from Cape Canaveral is scheduled Saturday afternoon, following the company’s first successful orbital test flight from Alaska last year. Loaded with four CubeSat nano-payloads, Astra’s small launcher is set for liftoff from pad 46 during a window between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. EST (1800-2100 GMT).

Our live launch coverage begins on this page once the launch time is confirmed.

The 43-foot-tall (13.1-meter) launch vehicle is modestly sized in comparison to other rockets that regularly fly from Cape Canaveral. It’s built to carry payloads of up to 110 pounds (50 kilograms) into an orbit at an altitude of 310 miles (500 kilometers).

The mission slated to blast off Saturday will be Astra’s fifth orbital launch attempt since 2020, and the company’s first mission from Cape Canaveral. The privately-developed rocket will soar away from Florida’s Space Coast, heading northeast over The Atlantic Ocean powered by five kerosene-fueled Delphin engines

Nearly nine minutes later, the rocket’s second stage is programmed to deploy the four CubeSat payloads into orbit. The CubeSats are each about the size of a toaster oven.

NASA contracted with Astra for Saturday’s mission as a demonstration launch before the space agency flies more satellites on Astra’s rockets. The $3.9 million contract is a precursor to future Astra launches with small NASA-owned scientific spacecraft.

One of the CubeSats flying Saturday was developed by students at New Mexico State University. Named INCA, the satellite will collect data on radiation in low Earth orbit.

Another small spacecraft, named QubeSat, comes from the University of California, Berkeley, and will test new miniature gyroscope technologies. The BAMA 1 mission, developed at the University of Alabama, will demonstrate a drag sail device designed to help old satellites and space junk drop out of orbit.

The final payload is a CubeSat named R5-S1 from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA says the mission’s objectives including demonstrating rapid CubeSat development and testing technologies useful for in-space inspection, which could make human spaceflight safer and more efficient.

Read our mission preview story for more details.

ROCKET: Astra’s Rocket 3.3 (LV0008)

PAYLOAD: ELaNa 41 (BAMA 1, INCA, QubeSat, R5-S1)

LAUNCH SITE: SLC-46, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: Feb. 5, 2022

LAUNCH WINDOW: 1:00-4:00 p.m. EST (1800-2100 GMT)

WEATHER FORECAST: 70% chance of acceptable weather

BOOSTER RECOVERY: None

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast (57 degrees)

TARGET ORBIT: 310 miles (500 kilometers), 41 degrees inclination

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

T+00:00: Liftoff
T+00:06: Begin pitch over
T+01:10: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
T+02:50: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
T+02:55: Payload fairing jettison
T+03:00: Stage separation
T+03:05: Second stage engine ignition
T+08:30: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO)
T+08:40: Payload deployment

MISSION STATS:

5th orbital launch attempt by Astra
3rd launch of Astra’s Rocket 3.3 configuration
1st Astra launch from Florida
4th orbital launch from pad 46
1st Astra launch of 2022
7th orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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