NASA seeks new rockets for Hurricane satellites after Astra problems
Citing “urgent” needs for hurricane-tracking satellites, NASA is on the hunt for new rockets after a launch effort failed to deliver two cubesats to space in June.
Nasa is asking more companies to bid for the launch of its TROPICS line of satellites in 2023 after its original supplier, Astra, lost a rocket carrying two TROPICS cubesats during the first launch on June 12. (The cause remains under investigation.)
NASA officials say the TROPICS launch pivot is needed to for a “timely” launch (opens in a new tab) of the cubesat constellation. September saw several huge hurricanes or intense tropical storms (like Hurricane Ian) slam in parts of Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico. Similar storms continue to intensify around the world amid climate changemaking the need for these satellites urgent.
In picture : Astronaut looks into the eye of Hurricane Ian from space
To get TROPICS into orbit by 2023, NASA said it would look to 13 pre-approved companies (opens in a new tab) under a commercial launch services contract, known as a Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR).
“The VADR contract allows the 13 companies selected this year to compete for the new TROPICS Launch Services offering, giving the agency and external stakeholders the ability to use TROPICS data sooner,” officials said. the agency in the press release.
TROPICS, which stands for Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats, aims to allow researchers to visualize the evolution of tropical cyclones once per hourmuch more frequently than is currently possible with the weather satellites in orbit.
Astra’s Rocket 3.3 which failed to launch TROPICS has experienced several failures in recent attempts, prompting the company to cancel that line of rockets in August to focus on an improved version, called Rocket 4.0.
With Rocket 4.0 ready, NASA and Astra amended their launch services contract “to launch comparable science payloads,” NASA officials said. Prior to the failed launch, Astra had been selected in 2021 for three TROPICS launches on the now canceled Rocket 3.3.