ORLANDO, Fla. — Astra Space suffered another failure in its attempt to perform a successful launch from the Space Coast on Sunday when its second stage could not put two NASA satellites into proper orbit.
While the Alameda, California-based company was able to launch its Rocket 3.3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, the mission proved unsuccessful, the second time the company has come up short from Florida.
“We had a nominal first-stage flight however the upper stage engine did shut down early and we did not deliver our payloads to orbit,” said Astra Space Director of Product Management Carolina Grossman.
While the company has managed two successful orbital launches from its Alaska spaceport, the only other time it took off from Cape Canaveral ended in failure as well, when the second stage on that flight in February was seen tumbling out of control in space, and four small satellites also part of a NASA mission were ultimately lost.
This was supposed to be the first of three planned flights to put six satellites into orbit for NASA’s TROPICS mission, which stands for Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity Constellation.
“We regret not being able to deliver the first two TROPICS satellites,” said company cofounder and CEO Chris Kemp. “Nothing is more important to our team than the trust of our customers and the successful delivery of the remaining TROPICS satellites. We will share more when we have fully reviewed data.”
There are still four more TROPICS satellites to be placed into orbit, part of a $7.95 million contract Astra Space was awarded in 2021.
The company’s February Space Coast failure was part of a $3.9 million contract under NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2, and ended with the loss of four CubeSats. That failure was due to improper fairing deployment, but the company was able to remedy that issue and follow up with a successful Alaska launch one month later.
Astra’s rockets have made 10 launches to date, with just the two Alaska flights labeled as successes.
The TROPICS flights are being managed under NASA’s Launch Services Program, which has been partnering with less proven launch providers such as Astra on what it acknowledges are higher-risk missions for failure.
On a post to its website, NASA stated the program “continues to work with emerging launch providers to deliver low-cost science missions into orbit through contracts that align with commercial practices, using less NASA oversight to achieve lower launch costs.”