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Astra’s NASA TROPICS cubesat launch ends in failure

Credit: Astra

Edinburgh, 14 June 2022. – Astra failed to launch two NASA weather monitoring cubesats on Sunday, 12th June due to a premature shut down of the rocket’s upper stage. Astra said it would provide more information after the completion of the full data review.

Astra’s LV0010 (Rocket 3.3) vehicle launched after a terminated initial attempt due to an issue with the liquid oxygen propellant. The launch seemed to be going to plan until after the deployment of the payload fairing and stage separation. The upper stage ignited as scheduled but about four minutes later a plume could be seen and the vehicle tumbled. The deployment of the two cubesats never took place.

The failure is the second one this year, after a failed payload fairing separation in February. Astra has only two successful flights that have reached orbit out of seven launches.

Sunday’s deployment would have placed the first two of the six Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) into orbit. The six cubesats were planned to be deployed two at a time over three launches for NASA at a contract value of US $7.95 million. The microwave-radiometer cubesats would have taken temperature and precipitation measurements in tropical storm systems with revisit times of less than an hour. NASA claims the mission can still achieve its science goals with the remaining four satellites.

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