Astra fails to deliver cubesats for NASA to orbit13. 6. 2022
On Sunday, June 12, Astra’s LV0010 vehicle lifted off from LC-46 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. This mission carried two NASA TROPICS cubesats (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) and the next two launches for Astra, LV0011 and LV0012, are planned to launch the remaining four TROPICS satellites.
The launch of the TROPICS-1 mission marked the seventh orbital launch attempt for Astra and the second from Cape Canaveral. The first mission from Florida in February 2022 did not reach orbit due to fairing separation failure.
The first launch attempt was aborted at T-102 seconds but Astra was able to recycle and launch the vehicle about one and a half hours later. The ascent of the first stage was nominal followed by MECO, fairing deployment, and stage separation. The Aether engine then lit for a planned five minutes long burn. However, at T+7m 30s, the engine shuts down and the spacecraft spins out of control. This meant that it did not reach orbit and will re-enter the atmosphere.
The exact cause of this anomaly is yet to be determined by the Astra team, but so far we have seen them learn and recover from failed missions quickly and we can hope that this will make Rocket 3 a more favorable and reliable small sat launcher. The remaining two missions will launch four final TROPICS satellites from Cape Canaveral – LV0011 and LV0012.