Astra space company’s rocket failed to send two NASA weather-tracking satellites to space after its second stage engine went down unexpectedly. As a result of the failure, both satellites were lost.
Astra’s Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010) lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 1:43 PM ET, but failed 10 minutes later due to an upper-stage malfunction. The launch was part of NASA’s plan to deploy six TROPICS satellites into orbit. These tiny CubeSats are designed to help NASA track emerging tropical storms.
“The upper stage shut down early, and we did not deliver the payloads to orbit,” Astra said in a statement on Twitter. “We have apologised to NASA and the payload team.”
In a Twitter thread, Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA’s science division, recognised the failed launch but remained positive.
“Although today’s launch with Astra did not go as planned, the mission offered a great opportunity for new science and launch capabilities,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA’s science unit that oversaw the mission, wrote on Twitter.
“Even though we are disappointed right now, we know: There is value in taking risks in our overall NASA Science portfolio because innovation is required for us to lead.”
It’s unclear if NASA intends to launch the remaining TROPICS satellites aboard Astra or if the two lost will be replaced.
Astra initially collaborated with NASA at the start of 2022 to launch a group of CubeSats into space, marking the company’s maiden launch from Cape Canaveral. However, the payload was lost as the rocket appeared to spin out of control after takeoff.
As of now, Astra has only had two successful orbital launches out of seven attempts; the first was in November, and the second was in March when it successfully installed a customer’s satellites. Astra’s previous launches have been plagued by various issues, ranging from guidance system faults to engine problems.