Low-cost Astra Rocket Suffers Upper Stage Failure. Two NASA Satellites Lost
“All appeared to be going smoothly,” reports CBS News, “when, about a minute before the second stage engine was expected to shut down, an onboard ‘rocketcam’ showed a flash in the engine’s exhaust plume.

“The camera view them showed what appeared to be a tumble before video from the rocket cut off….”

California-based Astra on Sunday launched two shoebox-size NASA satellites from Cape Canaveral in a modest mission to improve hurricane forecasts, but the second stage of the company’s low-cost booster malfunctioned before reaching orbit and the payloads were lost.

“The upper stage shut down early and we did not deliver the payloads to orbit,” Astra tweeted. “We have shared our regrets with @NASA and the payload team. More information will be provided after we complete a full data analysis.”

It was the seventh launch of Astra’s small “Venture-class” rocket and the company’s fifth failure. Sunday’s launch was the first of three planned for NASA to launch six small CubeSats, two at a time, into three orbital planes. Given the somewhat risky nature of relying on tiny shoebox-size CubeSats and a rocket with a very short track record, the $40 million project requires just four satellites and two successful launches to meet mission objectives. The NASA contract calls for the final two flights by the end of July. Whether Astra can meet that schedule given Sunday’s failure is not yet known.

“Although today’s launch with @Astra did not go as planned, the mission offered a great opportunity for new science and launch capabilities,” tweeted NASA science chief Thomas Zurbuchen….
After Sunday’s failure, he tweeted: “Even though we are disappointed right now, we know: There is value in taking risks in our overall NASA Science portfolio because innovation is required for us to lead.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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