Two small NASA satellites intended to study the development of a hurricane failed to enter orbit on Sunday when their Astra rocket grounded before reaching the required altitude, the US space agency said.
“After a nominal first-stage flight, the rocket’s upper stage shut down early and failed to deliver TROPICS CubeSats to orbit,” NASA’s Launch Services Program said on Twitter.
In a post on its pre-launch website, NASA described the TROPICS CubeSats as a group of six “shoebox-sized” satellites that would “study the formation and development of tropical cyclones, making observations more often than is possible with current weather satellites.” .”
Astra received a $7.95 million contract from NASA in February 2021 for three launches, each with a pair of TROPICS instruments on board.
Hoping to become a major player in the market for launching small satellites, Astra promises more frequent launches with greater flexibility than companies using larger rockets, such as SpaceX and Arianespace.
But the startup has faced recurring problems due to the failure of its two-stage rocket to reach orbit.
In February, during another NASA CubeSat mission, Astra’s second stage failed to reach orbit due to a problem with projectiles covering the satellites during launch.
“We regret that we were unable to deliver our first two TROPICS satellites,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp said Sunday in a tweet.
“Nothing is more important to our team than the trust of our customers and the successful delivery of the remaining TROPICS satellites.”
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