A rocket belonging to rising space company Astra has failed to deliver two of NASA’s weather-tracking satellites into space after its second-stage engine shut down prematurely. Both satellites were lost as a result of the failure.
Astra’s Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010) successfully lifted off from the Cape Canaveral space station in Florida at 1:43 p.m. ET, but suffered an upper stage failure about 10 minutes into its flight. The launch was part of NASA’s mission to send six TROPICS satellites into space – these small, foot-long CubeSats are meant to help NASA better track the development of tropical storms. CubeSats are low-cost satellites frequently built by college and university researchers.
We had a first nominal flight. The upper stage shut down early and we didn’t deliver the payloads to orbit. We shared our regrets with @NASA and payload team. More information will be provided after we have completed a full review of the data.
— Astra (@Astra) June 12, 2022
“The upper stage shut down early and we didn’t deliver the payloads to orbit,” Astra said in a statement on Twitter. “We have shared our regrets with @NASA and the payload team.” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s science division, admitted the failure of the launch in a thread on Twitterbut remained optimistic, noting that it “still offered a great opportunity for new science and launch capabilities”.
It’s unclear if or when NASA plans to launch the remaining TROPICS satellites with Astra, or if the two that were lost will be replaced. NASA did not immediately respond to The edgerequest for comment.
Astra first partnered with NASA in February to bring a set of CubeSats into space, marking its first launch from Cape Canaveral. However, Astra lost the payload after the rocket appeared to spin out of control after launch.
Astra has so far managed just two orbital launches out of seven total attempts – the company first reached orbit last November and successfully deployed a customer’s satellites into orbit in March. A range of issues have impacted Astra’s other launches, ranging from issues with its guidance system to engine failure.