DRDO started developing the beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) to arm the Indian Air Force's Mirage 2000H, MiG-29, Sea Harrier, Su-30MKI, MiG-21 Bison and HAL Tejas fighter aircraft. The missile uses an indigenous solid fuel propellant. A rocket/ramjet propulsion for improved range and enhanced kinematic performance, similar to that used in the Akash surface-to-air missile, is also being developed.
The missile was successfully tested without control and guidance systems on 9 May to 12 May 2003. The missile was again successfully tested on 25 March 2007. On 27 March, vertical launch of the missile was carried out, suggesting the use of the missile as a long-range surface-to-air missile for the Indian Navy to arm its destroyers and frigates and for the Indian Air Force. The ground testing of the Astra missile was successful. The missile was successfully tested on 13 September 2008.
The testing of the dual-mode guidance was carried out in May 2009. Captive flight trials of Astra missile were carried out in November 2009. On 11 January 2010, the Astra was test-fired in the Chandipur-on-sea area, off the Odisha coast. However, the test wasn't successful, due to a slight failure in electronic system of the missile.
The missile will be able to intercept target aircraft at supersonic speed. Initially planned to arm Jaguar, MIG-29 and Tejas, DRDO officials are now indicating that after user trials, the missile would be integrated with Indian Air Force's front-line fighter aircraft like Sukhoi-30 MKIs and Mirage-2000s. The programme faced multiple problems for a year owing to control issues and higher than expected rolling moments at high angles of attack. The night trials of the Astra was carried out successfully on 6 June 2010. Another test was carried out on 7 June 2010 under inclement weather conditions. Both were successful.
On 20 May 2011, ballistic flight test of the missile was carried out from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur."The main purpose of today's trial is to gauge the performance of the motor, propulsion system and the configurations of the vehicle and aero-dynamics evaluation," said a DRDO scientist. The missile, after its final trials, would be integrated with the Su-30 MKI.
The new symmetric configuration addresses these concerns and a number of missiles will be tested from the ground in 2012 to prove the configuration and engagement envelopes. Two subsystems were also re-designed and re-packaged to meet the new system configuration. DRDO hopes to have the production versions of Astra Mk-I & II on the three different fighters by 2016. DRDO has got two Su-30MKI aircraft from the IAF which has come with all modifications. Integration of the aircraft avionics with the missile on-board equipment are being carried out using the Sukhoi test rig at IAF's Software Development Institute in Bengaluru. This will further undergo rigorous checks during the captive flight trials planned in mid-2012 for qualifying the electronic integrity in flight using a metric missile.
Astra was successfully test fired for two consecutive days on 21st and 22 December 2012 at Chandipur, successfully intercepted an electronic target and a Laksya target drone. The missile would be test fired from aircraft after three more ground launches. Starting from 29 November 2013, DRDL is conducting extensive carriage trials of Astra using a Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft in Pune. It is reported that the carriage trial will be continued until last week of December. These carriage trials shall be assessed on a modified Su-30 aircraft involving various parameters with respect to missile's compatibility with the aircraft in terms of avionics etc.
The missile was successfully test fired from a Su-30MKI fighter on 4 May 2014. The test-firing met all mission objectives and the launch was captured by side and forward looking high-speed cameras and the separation was exactly as per computer simulations, according to a press release from the DRDO.
On 19 March 2015,it was reported that Astra was successfully test fired from a Su-30MKI fighter at 12:30 PM in its full operational configuration against a simulated live target.This test was conducted as a part of induction phase trial and was aimed at checking the control system and the missile stability during the flight.
On 20 May 2015 Astra was successfully test fired from Su-30MKI twice for the validation of interception of fighter jet performing a “very high-g manoeuvres”.
On 21 May 2015 astra missile was again test fired.A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) missile technologist said that on Thursday the anti-aircraft missile climbed to an altitude of 25 km and went to a very long range during a flight of 150 seconds, after it was released from the aircraft at an altitude of 25 km. He said the weapon system was evaluated under extreme conditions. The control and guidance and all other sub-systems were validated at very high altitude and range as the missile zoomed at a speed of 4.5 Mach in the eighth developmental trial held on Thursday.