NASA loses two hurricane-watching satellites at launch

(Belga) Two small NASA satellites intended to study hurricanes failed to reach orbit on Sunday due to a malfunction in their Astra rocket, shortly after takeoff, the American space agency announced.

“After a nominal first-stage flight, the rocket’s upper stage shut down early and failed to deliver the TROPICS CubeSats to orbit,” NASA’s Space Launch Services Program said on its official Twitter account. In a post on its website ahead of launch, NASA described the TROPICS CubeSats as a constellation of six “shoebox”-sized satellites that “will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones, making observations more often than is currently possible with weather monitoring satellites.” Astra received a $7.95 million contract from NASA in February 2021 for three launches, each with a pair of TROPICS satellites on board. Hoping to become a key player in the market for launching small satellites, Astra promises more frequent launches with more flexibility than companies using larger rockets, such as SpaceX and Arianespace. But the start-up faced recurring problems with its two-stage rocket failing to reach orbit. In February, on another NASA CubeSat mission, Astra’s second stage failed to reach orbit. “We regret that we cannot deliver the first two TROPICS satellites,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp tweeted. “Nothing is more important to our team than the trust of our customers and the successful delivery of the remaining TROPICS satellites,” he added. (Belga)

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