NASA lost two of its weather satellites on June 12 when the second stage of Astra’s rocket failed to carry the payload to orbit. Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010), NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) CubeSats, took off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 11:13 p.m. (IST). However, the rocket’s upper stage, which was filled with CubeSats, shut down prematurely approximately ten minutes into the flight, failing to reach orbit.
Astra confirmed the loss of both of NASA’s small weather satellites, two of the six planned for launch as part of the constellation.
“We had a nominal first stage flight. The upper stage shut down early and we did not deliver the payloads to orbit,” According to a post-launch statement, Astra said. “We have shared our regrets with NASA and the payload team. More information will be provided after we complete a full data review.”
The California-based company, which focuses on smaller, less expensive space choices, attempted its second Florida launch on Sunday. Astra claims it can launch from anywhere in the world using off-the-shelf parts, ordinary materials, and shipping containers, as long as there is a concrete platform and internet connectivity. Its starting price is just around $4 million.
NASA Lost Two Of Six TROPICS Satellites
The TROPICS program has three launches planned, and the lost satellites were the very first pair of six weather satellites. “TROPICS will provide us with very frequent views of tropical cyclones, giving insight into their formation, intensification, and interactions with their environment, as well as critical data for storm monitoring and forecasting,” said Scott Braun, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement prior to the launch.
After the failure, NASA has not stated when the remaining launches will take place or whether Astra will continue to be the launch provider. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time Astra’s rocket has failed to complete a mission. In fact, according to the Verge, this is the company’s fifth failure overall and second this year, as it has only had two successful launches out of seven total tries. Chris Kemp, the company’s CEO, expressed sadness for the rocket’s failure. “The trust of our clients and the effective delivery of the remaining TROPICS satellites are the most important things to our team.” “When we have completely reviewed data, we will reveal more,” Kemp stated.
The two TROPICS payloads most certainly crashed to Earth shortly after the engine ran out, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“At the moment of shutdown, I believe the vehicle was in a… 545 kilometer… orbit,” he stated on Twitter. “A few minutes later, the vehicle and payloads will have crashed in the Atlantic.”