NASA has lost two weather satellites after an Astra rocket failed to deliver them to low-Earth orbit.
On Sunday, space industry startup Astra lost two Nasa payloads after lifting off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The rocket failure happened around seven minutes after launch from Complex 46, at 1:43 pm ET.
Specifically, the failure was due to the rocket’s sole engine prematurely shutting down after a flash appeared.
Prior to the rocket’s shutdown, Astra had postponed the mission’s countdown for more than 90 minutes to address a concern regarding the liquid oxygen.
Aboard the rocket were two Nasa science payloads dubbed TROPICS that were meant to study tropical storms.
Designated Rocket 3.3 or LV0010, the Astra rocket is the smallest orbital-class launcher currently in service worldwide, per SpaceFlightNow.
It measures around 43 feet (13.1 meters) tall and weighs about as much as a small business jet when fueled.
Meanwhile, the payloads on the rocket were around the size of a loaf of bread and featured miniaturized sensor technology.
Using microwave radiometers, the satellites were going to collect images and temperature and moisture data over tropical cyclones.
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“Those are important variables because they can be related to the intensity of the storm, and even potential for future intensification,” William Blackwell, principal investigator for the TROPICS mission from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, said.
“So we’re trying to make those measurements with a relatively high revisit. That’s really the key new feature that the TROPICS constellation provides, is an improved revisit of the storms.”
Following the rocket failure, Astra put out a statement expressing their regrets to Nasa.
“We had a nominal first stage flight. The upper stage shut down early and we did not deliver the payloads to orbit,” 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.”
Astra was founded in 2016 with the hopes of one day launching small payloads for entities like Nasa and other U.S. government agencies on daily missions.
The company currently charges a base launch price of around $4 million.
Following Sunday’s failure, Astra has successfully reached orbit on two out of seven missions.