After its second stage engine failed prematurely, a rocket belonging to the up-and-coming Astra space business failed to transport two of NASA’s weather-tracking satellites to orbit. The failure resulted in the loss of both satellites.
At 1:43 p.m. ET, Astra’s Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010) lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, but the upper stage failed approximately 10 minutes later. The launch was part of NASA’s plan to send six TROPICS satellites into orbit, which are small, foot-long CubeSats that are designed to assist NASA follow tropical storms as they develop. CubeSats are small, low-cost satellites that are typically developed by college and university researchers.
“The upper stage shut down early, and the cargo were not delivered to orbit,” Astra reported on Twitter. “We’ve informed @NASA and the payload crew of our regrets.” In a thread on Twitter, Thomas Zurbuchen, the assistant administrator for NASA’s scientific division, recognized the failed launch but remained upbeat, saying it “provided a fantastic chance for new science and launch capabilities.”
It’s unknown whether or not NASA expects to launch the remaining TROPICS satellites with Astra, or whether the two that were lost will be replaced. NASA did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment right away.
In February, Astra teamed with NASA to launch a series of CubeSats into orbit, marking the company’s first launch from Cape Canaveral. Astra, on the other hand, lost the cargo as the rocket spun out of control after takeoff.
Astra has only had two successful orbital launches out of seven attempts so far — the business first reached orbit in November and successfully placed a customer’s satellites into orbit in March. Astra’s past launches have been hampered by a variety of challenges, ranging from guidance system failures to engine failure.