NASA lost two small satellites on Sunday after a rocket malfunctioned en route to orbit. The two TROPICS CubeSats were the first pair of a constellation of six satellites intended to study tropical cyclones, but the space agency still hopes to launch the other four, pending investigation of failed delivery.
Private space company Astra’s 0010 launch vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1:43 p.m. ET, carrying a pair of shoebox sized satellites. The launch was deferred nearly two hours as ground crews worked to ensure the liquid oxygen thruster was at the correct temperature. Shortly after launch, the rocket’s upper stage shut down prematurely, preventing it from delivering its cargo to Earth orbit.
“Although today’s launch with Astra did not go as planned, the mission provided an excellent opportunity for new science and launch capabilities,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the science division of the Nasa. wrote on Twitter. “Ground missions, like this, are low-cost opportunities to send #NASAScience into space. It also allows researchers more opportunities to access space,” he said. -he adds.
CubeSats were part of NASA Time-resolved observations of precipitation pattern and storm intensity with a constellation of small satellites (TROPICS), which is designed to study tropical storms as they form and develop across the globe. The TROPICS satellites were to be spread over three orbital planes in order to cover more regions of the world at a more frequent rate than current weather satellites.
The mission is part of NASA’s Earth Venture program, defined as “low-cost, high-risk missions.” Astra was founded in 2016 with the aim of launching small, cost-effective rockets into space, but its rockets don’t always complete the journey; the California-based company has now had five failed orbital launches out of seven attempts, according at SpaceFlightNow. In February, NASA’s first launch with Astra ended in failure after the vehicle malfunctioned before reaching orbit, resulting in the loss of four CubeSats. This latest incident now makes it two botched launches for the NASA-Astra partnership.
The remaining four TROPICS CubeSats were scheduled to launch in July, but NASA said this “would pause the launch effort with Astra while an investigation is ongoing”. That said, NASA appears to have plans to launch the rest of the small constellation of satellites. “Despite the loss of the first two of six satellites, the TROPICS constellation will still achieve its science goals with the remaining four CubeSats spread across two orbits,” NASA wrote in a statement. statement. “With four satellites, TROPICS will consistently provide better time-resolved observations of tropical cyclones than traditional observing methods.”
Well, they say the third time is a charm. Hopefully NASA’s next launch with Astra will go much better.
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