Rockets secretly built near San Francisco set to blast off for DARPA Challenge

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ALAMEDA, Calif. (KRON) — Heads up Alaska! If you see a strange object flying into space within the next few days, it’s not an alien spaceship.

A secret rocket-building operation has been happening just a few miles outside of San Francisco. A team of Astra engineers have been working quietly inside an old warehouse on Alameda’s former Navy base as they attempt to win the DARPA Challenge.

An upcoming rocket launch will take place in Kodiak, Alaska, and mission control is in Alameda.

The DARPA Challenge is a mini space race created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is the U.S. Department of Defense’s agency tasked with developing emerging technologies for the military.

The challenge’s main objective was to invent a rapid response launch system that could launch a rocket into space with only a few weeks, or even just days, to prepare.

Astra
Astra testing rockets in Alameda

Astra’s engineers succeeded in inventing rockets that are easy and speedy to assemble, small enough to fit inside a semi-trailer or shipping container, and do not require a fixed launch pad. Other teams competing against Astra dropped out of the race, mostly due to financial constraints — building a rocket is not cheap.

The rocket was flown to Alaska onboard a cargo plane and inside a shipping container. Now all the Astra team needs is an ideal window of fair weather to put its nifty new rocket to the ultimate test. The launch date was pushed from Thursday, Feb. 27, back to possibly Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

Not much is known about the space company Astra.

Nasaspaceflight.com wrote, “The company was known for operating in almost complete secrecy. Very little was known about their rockets, tests, and launch attempts. The only public sighting of an Astra rocket was by a news helicopter in early 2018. Their first rocket, named Rocket 1.0, was spotted being readied for a test at the former Naval Air Station Alameda.”

“However, Astra recently came out of the shadows, and has released some information about their operations. Their current rocket, named Rocket 3.0, is a two-stage, five-engine, kerosene and liquid oxygen-powered rocket,” Nasaspaceflight.com wrote.

Once the team gets a green light to 3-2-1 blastoff, its secret rocket will be revealed, and the aerial spectacle is sure grab a lot attention from Alaska sky watchers.

Check back with KRON4.com for updates on the launch!

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