Astra Launch Fails to Reach Orbit, NASA TROPICS Satellites Lost13th Jun 2022
On 12th June, Astra attempted to launch an orbital rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The company’s Astra 3.3 Rocket, serial number LV 0010, completed its Stage 1 firing, liftoff and separation maneuvers. However, the second stage prematurely stopped firing. The payload, consisting of two hurricane-tracking satellites for NASA, failed to reach orbit.
The lost satellites comprised one-third of the units for NASA’s TROPICS project. TROPICS, an acronym for Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats, aims to increase observations of tropical storms by having at least one satellite over a given area part of the tropical zone on an hourly basis. NASA has not yet released a statement as to whether the lost satellites will be replaced or if TROPICS will carry on without them.
Astra and its success rate
Company is suffering from a poor track record in 2022. Two of three Astra launches failed to deliver their payloads. On 15th March, Rocket 3.3 serial number LV0009 successfully launched the Astra-1 mission with the NearSpace S4 Crossover Satellite. It also put into orbit OreSat0, which is a cubesat built by Portland State University in the U.S. state of Oregon as a proof of concept piece.
However, Astra failed to place a rocket into orbit on 10th February 2022. LV0008 successfully reached first-stage separation, but the payload fairing failed to separate. Moreover, LV0008 entered an uncontrollable spin. The cause of the spin was determined to be a failed thrust vector control system on the upper stage engine.
In 2021, Astra managed to complete one launch mission out of six. This includes a dramatic failure on 28th August, when LV0006 maintained a vertical orientation after launch, but moved horizontally downrange. LV0006 did manage to reach 50km in altitude before falling into the ocean.
Astra announced on 10th May that they intend to launch from SaxaVord, in Scotland. Launches could start as early as 2023.