Astra rocket fails to launch NASA Hurricane satellites

An Astra rocket carrying two small hurricane-tracking satellites for NASA failed to reach orbit on Sunday June 12 after a major malfunction shortly after liftoff.

The Astra rocket, called Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010), suffered a second stage failure after lifting off from a pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT). Two NASA cubesats, the first of a fleet of six satellites to track hurricanes as part of a $30 million mission, have been lost.

“We had a nominal first stage flight; however, the upper stage engine shut down early and we did not deliver our payloads to orbit,” said Astra’s senior manager Amanda Durk Frye. of first stage and engine production, during the live launch commentary. .

“We have shared our regrets with @NASA and the payload team,” Astra officials added. in a Twitter update (opens in a new tab). “More information will be provided once we have completed a full review of the data.” Sunday’s launch attempt was originally scheduled for 12 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. GMT), but was delayed by a boat in the launch area and a refueling problem.

Video: Watch Astra’s LV0010 rocket launch failure with NASA satellites

Astra’s LV0010 mission carried the first satellites of NASA’s time-resolved observations of precipitation pattern and storm intensity with a constellation of small satellites (TROPICS). It was the first of three TROPICS missions planned for this year by Astra, each carrying two NASA cubesats the size of a loaf of bread, to complement the hurricane-watching constellation. Astra’s three-mission TROPICS deal with NASA is worth a total of $7.95 million for the company.

“TROPICS will give us very frequent views of tropical cyclones, giving insight into their formation, intensification and interactions with their environment and providing critical data for storm monitoring and forecasting,” said Scott Braun, Meteorologist research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. , Maryland, said in a press release (opens in a new tab) before launch.

Using three pairs of TROPICS satellites, each in a different orbit, NASA hoped to monitor hurricanes and tropical storms every hour. It’s unclear if the agency can still do this with just four satellites, or if the two lost in today’s failed launch will be replaced.

Sunday’s failed launch is the second incident this year for Astra. In February, the California-based company failed to launch four NASA cubesats on the ELaNa 41 mission, a flight that was also staged from its Florida launch pad and marked Astra’s first attempt to launch payloads for a client. A problem with the rocket’s payload fairing was to blame, with Astra implementing a fix to prevent a recurrence.

Astra managed to reach orbit with customer payloads a month later when its LV0009 rocket lifted off from a pad at the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island in Alaska, where the company had launched four test flights previous ones. The company’s first successful orbital launch took place during one of these test flights in November 2021.

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