WASHINGTON — Astra Space won a task order worth $11.5 million to launch experimental payloads for the Defense Department’s Space Test Program.

Astra, a small satellite launch company based in Alameda, California, was awarded the contract under the U.S. Space Force’s Orbital Services Program OSP-4, the Space Systems Command announced April 21.

The OSP-4 program is run by the Space Systems Command’s Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico.  

The mission, named STP-S29B, is scheduled to fly in April 2025 on Astra’s new launch vehicle called Astra 4. It will carry an ESPA-class space vehicle and rideshare cubesats.

The STP-S29 mission was divided into two launches and awarded to two different providers. 

STP-S29A was awarded last year to Northrop Grumman, The company won a $29.9 million task order to launch the mission in September 2024 on a Minotaur 4 small launch vehicle. 

STP-S29B, awarded to Astra, is a “complex mission that will conduct scientific experiments and technology demonstrations with the goal of advancing DoD’s space capabilities,” said Col. Justin Beltz, chief of the Small Launch and Targets Division.

Higher mission assurance

Astra was pre-qualified for the OSP-4 program in August 2021. OSP-4 is an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracting vehicle for rapid acquisition of launch services. Vendors compete for individual orders, and have to be able to launch payloads larger than 400 pounds to any orbit within 12 to 24 months from contract award.  

The award to Astra “reflects the tremendous promise industry is bringing to the table with systems like Rocket 4. We look forward to working with Astra to make this launch a success,” said Beltz.

The STP-S29B mission is a Category 2 mission assurance launch, which requires additional certifications and an independent risk assessment. 

“STP-S29B demands a higher level of mission assurance than previous Astra launches and therefore represents a significant increase in Astra’s coordination with the Space Force to perform a launch designed for mission success,” said Thomas Williams, senior director of federal sales at Astra.

Astra is targeting the first launch of its Rocket 4 vehicle before the end of the year. 

It is a new vehicle the company designed to carry heavier payloads than the previous Astra Rocket 3.3. Astra discontinued the development of Rocket 3.3 after it failed to deploy two NASA Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) satellites in June 2022.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...