NASA loses two hurricane monitoring satellites at launch

(ORDO NEWS) — Two small NASA satellites designed to study the evolution of hurricanes failed to reach orbit Sunday when their Astra rocket shut off short of altitude, the US space agency said.

“Following a nominal first stage flight, the rocket’s upper stage shut down prematurely and failed to deliver the TROPICS CubeSats into orbit,” NASA’s Launch Services Program said in a statement.

In a posting on its website prior to 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 possible with current meteorological satellites.”

In February 2021, Astra received a $7.95 million contract from NASA for three launches, each carrying a pair of TROPICS vehicles.

Hoping to become a key player in the small satellite launch market, Astra promises more frequent launches with more flexibility than companies using larger rockets like SpaceX and Arianespace.

However, the startup constantly runs into problems when its signature two-stage rocket fails to reach orbit.

In February, during another NASA CubeSat mission, Astra’s second stage failed to reach orbit due to a problem with the release of shells that close the satellites during launch.

“We regret that we were unable to deliver the first two TROPICS satellites,” says Astra CEO Chris Kemp.

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