A NASA mission carried out by Astra has failed after its rocket failed to reach orbit. The rocket was carrying two TROPICS cubesats to study hurricanes
On Sunday, June 12, an Astra rocket which was carrying NASA satellites suffered a major malfunction and failed to reach the Earth’s orbit. Astra is a California-based aerospace company which was taking up a payload mission to deliver satellites for NASA. The satellites in the mission were a couple of cubesats (miniature satellites in cube shape) called Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS). This is the second time Astra has failed a NASA mission this year, with the earlier one coming as soon as Mid-February.
The rocket, Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010) was launched from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 11:13 PM IST. But soon after, it suffered from malfunction in its second stage. “We had a nominal first stage flight; however, the upper-stage engine did shut down early and we did not deliver our payloads to orbit,” said Amanda Durk Frye, senior manager for first stage and engine production, Astra.
NASA Mission fails after Astra rocket suffers major malfunction
Formerly known as the Stealth Space Company, Astra was founded five years ago, in 2016 by Chris Kemp and Adam London. Kemp later apologized in a tweet saying, “We regret not being able to deliver the first two TROPICS satellites. Nothing is more important to our team than the trust of our customers and the successful delivery of the remaining TROPICS satellites. We will share more when we have fully reviewed data”.
Astra was on a NASA-funded mission to deliver the two TROPICS cubesats that would have been used to track and study hurricanes. The satellites, which were part of a $30 million mission, were reportedly lost. The launch would have been the first of three planned TROPICS missions for this year. After the third launch, the hurricane observing satellite constellation would have been complete, giving the American space agency a chance to monitor hurricanes and tropical storms every hour. It remains to be seen whether NASA can pull it off with just four satellites.
“TROPICS will give us very frequent views of tropical cyclones, providing insight into their formation, intensification, and interactions with their environment and providing critical data for storm monitoring and forecasting,” Scott Braun, research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said prior to the launch.