- Elon Musk commended California-based company Astra Space for reaching orbit for the first time.
- The firm's rocket hit its target orbit nine minutes after liftoff, per CNBC.
- "Congrats! Orbit is not easy," Musk wrote in a tweet to Astra.
On Saturday, the startup, which specializes in launch vehicles, blasted its LV0007 rocket from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska, CNBC reported.
Following a smooth liftoff, the 43-foot rocket, which was carrying a test payload for the US Space Force, achieved its target orbit after around nine minutes, at an altitude of 500 kilometers.
The achievement was met with praise from Musk and other figures in the space industry. "Congrats! Orbit is not easy," the SpaceX and Tesla CEO wrote in a tweet to Astra.
Astra joins SpaceX, Rocket Lab, and Virgin Orbit in the select group of US space companies that have reached orbit with a privately funded rocket, according to CNBC.
Astra CEO Chris Kemp said on the company's webcast: "This is an incredibly hard thing to do," CNBC reported.
"The team's worked so hard on this for so many years and … seeing iteration after iteration, failure after failure lead to success; everyone is just incredibly passionate," Kemp added.
The company's launch follows a series of failed attempts at reaching orbit. In its last attempt in August, one of the five main engines on the vehicle shut down just after liftoff, Insider reported.
Astra hopes to eventually launch as many of its small rockets as it can, striving to launch one a day by 2025, according to CNBC.
Meanwhile, Musk recently said SpaceX will fly its Starship spaceship into orbit for the first time in early 2022. He cautioned, however, that the initial attempt might fail, Insider's Kate Duffy reported.
SpaceX will carry out tests in December, ahead of the flight in January.