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Astra’s failed launch resulted in the loss of two NASA weather satellites

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A rocket from the up-and-coming space company Astra failed to launch two of NASA’s weather satellites into space after the second stage’s engine shut down prematurely. Both satellites were lost due to the outage.

Astra’s launch vehicle 0010 (LV0010) successfully lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 1:43 p.m. ET, but suffered an upper stage failure about 10 minutes into the flight. The launch was part of NASA’s mission to send six TROPICS satellites into space — these tiny, foot-long CubeSats should help NASA better track tropical storm development. CubeSats are inexpensive satellites often built by researchers at colleges and universities.

“The top stage was shut down prematurely and we didn’t put the payloads into orbit,” Astra said in a statement a statement on Twitter† “We have shared our regrets with @NASA and the payload team.” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA’s science division, acknowledged the failed launch in a thread on twitterbut remained optimistic, noting that it still presented “a great opportunity for new science and launch opportunities.”

It is unclear if and when NASA plans to launch the remaining TROPICS satellites with Astra, or if the two that have been lost will be replaced. When reached for comment, NASA referred to: The edge until an update on her website, noting that Astra and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident. While NASA says it will “provide any necessary expertise,” it “would expect to pause the launch with Astra while an investigation is underway.”

Astra first teamed up with NASA in February to bring a set of CubeSats to space, marking the first launch from Cape Canaveral. However, the Astra lost payload after the rocket seemed to spiral out of control after launch.

So far, Astra has had only two successful orbital launches out of seven total attempts — the company first reached orbit last November and successfully launched a customer’s satellites into orbit in March. A range of issues impacted the other Astra launches, ranging from problems with the guidance system to engine failure.

Update June 13, 9:29 AM ET: Updated to add an additional statement from NASA.


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