back to article Bonkers rocket launch sees craft slip sideways, barely climb and tear up terrain

Ever wondered what happens when one of an orbital class rocket's main engines fails a second into a flight? US-based low-Earth orbit launch company named Astra found out on Saturday. The video below shows the fun, which starts from about 1:33:30 in the video below. Youtube Video Here's another view of the launch. Reviewing …

  1. IceC0ld

    onwards and upwards ................................... or sideways :o)

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      > onwards and upwards ................................... or sideways :o)

      And occasionally in many directions at once.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Per ardua ad terra

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like rockets.

    I was part of the model rocket club in my Junior year (9th grade) & learned a lot from it all. Like it always paid to install an extra large parachute in the recovery stage so no matter how big/heavy the rocket might be, you could count on it landing as softly as possible. When all the other kids were launching eggs wrapped in foam, packed in styrofoam peanuts, or otherwise wedged in tight to prevent movement, I sent mine up in a section of cardboard egg carton & an extra large chute. Mine was one of the few to get recovered intact, thus earning me a free icecream cone for my troubles. So if/when an engine fails, or something causes you to abort the intended flight, that extra large chute may be the best investment you could ever make. Just for fun we built a small "astronaught capsel" out of Lego & strapped minifigs inside to simulate (badly) the stresses of a full sized launch. We were rather impressed & humiliated when we recovered the capsel to find that we had miscalculated the power of the recovery charge & the whole thing was a slagged blob of molten burnt plastic. *Sigh* I may not be the next billionare space tourist, but I wish the company all the luck in & out of this world. =-)

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: I like rockets.

      I fondly remember when you could buy solid model rocket engines (along with rocket kits) easily. Did launch couple and was great fun and good learning experience.

      These days you could do so much more with regards to sensors and telemetry, alas looks like engines are almost banned and whole thing wrapped in much bureaucracy. Yet any idiot is free to buy fireworks.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge

    It’s just a jump to the left

    And step to the right…..

    Jokes aside, good job guys.

    1. bpfh Silver badge

      Re: It’s just a jump to the left

      It’s the missing thru-u-u-st

      That really drives you insa-a-a-a-a-ane

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        Re: It’s just a jump to the left

        Lets do the whole launch agaiiiiiiin

    2. revenant

      Re: It’s just a jump to the left

      Well done -->

    3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: It’s just a jump to the left

      We missed a line:

      Turn the camera on and keep the rocket in si-i-ight

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Nice recovery

    I would not have believed they could correct for the off-centre drive so quickly.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Nice recovery

      The camera handling person was confused for a moment, judging from the wide angle shot trying to find the thing. Clearly, the computer in charge of the rocket is working better ;)

      (yeah, I would have been confused as well, probably even more - the usual direction would be "up", not "to the right and then a bit up and more to the right before it finally startes to accelerate upwards")

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Nice recovery

        "The camera handling person was confused for a moment, judging from the wide angle shot trying to find the thing."

        Yeah, I saw that too. Load sounds of launch, lots of steam and exhaust and the camera operator, for a fraction of a second, seemed to think s/he had missed it and panned up before realising, no, it's not up there yet :-)

    2. mutt13y

      Re: Nice recovery

      Agreed 100%

      Propulsion needs some wotk . But Guidance AMAZING give that team a medal

    3. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

      Re: Nice recovery

      I've seen some amazing videos of the SpaceX landings at sea. You can see ridiculous motion compensation at play during the last 200m of the drop, great stuff!

  5. jake Silver badge

    That reminds me ...

    ... I need a new flame weeder.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: That reminds me ...

      Are you infected with Martian Red Weed, per chance...??!!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "... before safely returning to Earth." This safely you talk about.... for who? The rocket?

    Anyways, thanks for finally putting the time to skip into the video.

    1. ssharwood

      FWIW I used the embed code that >>should<< have started the vid at the relevant moment. For some reason that didn't work ... a chat with the devs is now on my to-do list.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Scott Manley covered this in an 11-minute video that makes it much easier to find the important bits. No landing, no big kaboom but still far nearer to orbit than Jeff's lawyers.

        1. VulcanV5

          Thanks to Flocke . . .

          Thanks for the heads-up or heads-sideways re the Scott Manley video on YouTube. Unfortunately, the one chosen by El Reg makes little sense: some gigantic plane or other suddenly appearing in the middle of everything. If Astra or NASA or ASDA (?) whoever can't manage a coherent video recording, not much chance of managing something slightly more ambitious. . . like a successful launch.

  7. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    United States Space Farce

  8. revenant


    I eagerly watched the video expecting to see lots of flames and an uncontrolled disassembly (I'm that kinda guy), but actually that was quite impressive - to lose one of the main engines and slip sideways, yet get up to 50km was a marvellous technical achievement. In addition, that was top-notch lift off and in-flight video.

    So, well done all.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Now I understand...

    ... what's meant when someone says; "it all went sideways".

    1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

      Re: Now I understand...

      Also a good demonstration of a "scorched earth policy".

  10. Sceptic Tank

    Coming soon to a launchpad near you...

    So this wasn't planned? I thought this was technology to allow astronauts en route to the moon / mars / andromeda to be picked up from the bus stop down the road from the launch facility.

  11. Elledan

    Gemini flashbacks

    Who doesn't remember those glorious videos of early US rocket launches, with rockets falling back to the pad before exploding, or falling sideways before exploding, or just exploding?

    When LV0006 was doing its unexpected lateral translation I was fully expecting it to create a similar fireball, not to make its way out of the conveniently left open gate to lightly scorch the grass. Not to mention rise from the clouds and smoke to climb (slowly) up into the air.

    As Scott Manley noted in his video analysis of the incident, it looks like there was an explosive oopsie near the engine that turned off, with part of the raceway - that normally covers the wiring on the outside of the craft - torn off. Hard to tell what exactly went wrong there, but for all we know it might have to do with the quick disconnect setup triggering an overpressure event of some type.

    Still best to do the explodey part & RUDs early in the development program, rather than while carrying a customer's payload, that's for sure.

    1. Timbo Bronze badge

      Re: Gemini flashbacks

      "Still best to do the explodey part & RUDs early in the development program, rather than while carrying a customer's payload, that's for sure."

      Quite..except they were apparently carrying a payload for US Space Force...unless Space Force is not considered a "customer"...perhaps they were getting a "freebie" launch of something they wanted to dispose of ? (As I assume the aborted rocket made an unpowered and un-controlled landing somewhere wet and deep...and therefore an unrecoverable payload is maybe smashed into tiny pieces (after having achieved terminal velocity on it's way back to Terra Oceana) and hitting the water with some "Force"...

  12. Blofeld's Cat

    Er ...

    A spectacular demonstration of the attitude control systems keeping the pointed end up and the hot end down. Nobody hammered home the sensors on this one.

    They also avoided having to do a major clean up of the environment and launch pad by letting it continue until it was over one of the marine exclusion zones.

    So a good call all round - have several of these ...

  13. Pangasinan Philippines

    Handy gap in the fence

    Someone opened the gate.

    Must have predicted that.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The vehicle achieved an altitude of approximately 50 kilometers, before safely returning to Earth."

    Ahhh, this is obviously a new use of the word "safe" that I was not previously familiar with.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Well ...

      ... it didn't land on crash into your favorite boat, did it?

  15. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    Who was in charge?

    I'm rather surprised the range safety officer didn't act to make sure it didn't go where not destroying it before it could go very far sideways.

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Re: Who was in charge?

      The range safety officer probably saw that the rocket was still moving away from land so let it continue rather than detonating it while it was still close to the ground. As the guidance system was still able to get the craft towards a safe area there was no immediate need to destroy it.

      Good recovery by the guidance system - compare this failure with many where the rocket turned upside down or fell on its side.

  16. mickaroo

    Rocket Science Is Hard!

    I watch stuff like this and I am still in awe of Apollo 11.

    I was a teenager then, and it really was Rocket Science!

  17. Mister Dubious

    In the Vanguard

    Sort of reminds me of the Vanguard launches in the late 1950's. (Oh, er, a long LONG time before I was born, heard about 'em from my older brother, no, from my grandmother, yeah, that's it, my gran- no, my GREAT-grandmother, right.) The first rose less than two meters off the launch pad before nosing over into a fiery doom, and most of the rest did but little better. (Said my great-gran. Of course.)

    Nice to see we're making progress.

  18. XSV1


    A more comprehensive video with nauseating commentary by someone from the company's PR department is available here:

  19. batfink Silver badge

    Well they weren't lying

    When they said they were launching to Low Earth Orbit...

  20. Non sibi

    Landbased Lifeforms

    Re:"Astra launches from a remote spot near Kodiak, Alaska, so has almost 1000km of the Gulf of Alaska between it and the rest of the USA's most northern state. Events like today's mishap, therefore, pose little danger to land-based lifeforms."

    There are more than 13,000 people living on Kodiak Island and the launch facility is less than an hour's drive from town. I won't even begin to mention the wildlife (you know: bears, deer, foxes etc. and sea life). Every time they launch they disrupt the lives - security blockades. etc. while contributing little to the economy or community of Kodiak,

    And those failed launches? Ugh the nightmare begins.

  21. Swarthy Silver badge


    I've had launches like that in Kerbal...They need more boosters; or to wake up Jeb.

  22. Man inna barrel Bronze badge


    I thought this stuff was a high explosive, but it is a propellant, used in rockets. I just couldn't resist the name.

    I think the trick is to make the stuff go whoosh instead of bang. You know you had a good launch when the rocket was not quite blown to bits.

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