An Astra rocket carrying two small hurricane-tracking satellites for NASA failed to orbit Sunday (June 12) after a major failure shortly after launch.
The Astra rocket, named Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010), suffered stage two failure after taking off from a platform at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 1:43 PM EDT (1743 GMT). Two NASA Cubesats, the first of a six-satellite fleet tracking hurricanes as part of a $30 million mission, were lost.
“We had nominal flight in the first stage, but the top stage motor stalled early and we didn’t orbit our payloads,” said Astra’s Amanda Durk Frye, senior manager for production of the first stage. and the engine, during the live commentary on the launch. †
“We have shared our regrets with @NASA and the payload team,” Astra officials added in a Twitter update (opens in new tab)† “More information will be provided after we complete a full data review.” Sunday’s attempted launch was initially scheduled for 12 noon EDT (1600 GMT), but was delayed by a boat in the launch zone and a fuel problem.
Video: Watch the Failed Launch of Astra’s LV0010 Rocket with NASA Satellites
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Astra’s LV0010 mission carried the first satellites of NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm intensity with a constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS). It was the first of three TROPICS missions planned this year by Astra, each carrying two bread-sized NASA cubes, to complete the hurricane observation constellation. Astra’s three-mission TROPICS deal with NASA is worth a total of $7.95 million to the company.
“TROPICS will provide us with high-frequency images of tropical cyclones, provide insight into their formation, intensification and interactions with their environment, and provide critical data for storm monitoring and forecasting,” Scott Braun, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland, said in a statement: (opens in new tab) before launch.
By using three pairs of TROPICS satellites, each in a different orbit, NASA hoped to track hurricanes and tropical storms every hour. It’s unclear whether the agency can still do that with just four satellites, or whether the two lost in today’s launch failure will be replaced.
Sunday’s launch failure is the second accident this year for Astra. In February, the California-based company failed to launch four NASA cubesats as part of its ELaNa 41 mission, a flight also staged from the Florida launch pad and marking Astra’s first attempt to deliver payloads to a customer. to launch. A problem with the rocket’s payload fairing was the cause, and Astra implemented a fix to prevent a recurrence.
Astra successfully entered orbit with customer payloads a month later when its LV0009 rocket lifted off from a platform at the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, where the company had launched four previous test flights. The company’s first successful orbital launch took place on one of those test flights in November 2021.
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