Astra Rocket Unable to Deliver Payload

Astra Space Inc.--Astra’s June 12 launch was not able to complete its mission and deploy NASA’s small satellites into orbit.

Astra Rocket Unable to Deliver Payload

Alameda-based Astra Space Inc. was unable to complete its NASA TROPICS-1 flight mission on Sunday, June 12, from Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46) in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The mission started out promising. The Astra Rocket 3.3 launched off the Astra’s launch vehicle, LV0010, about two hours after the launch window began at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. The one-hour-and-43-minute delay was primarily to ensure the booster’s load of liquid oxygen propellant was at the proper temperature, according to Astra officials during the live broadcast of the launch.

About seven minutes into the launch, the rocket’s upper stage shut down making it unable for the vehicle to deploy its payload of the two NASA satellites.

“We had a nominal first stage flight,” wrote Astra on its Twitter page. “The upper stage shut down early and we did not deliver the payloads to orbit. We have shared our regrets with NASA and the payload team. More information will be provided after we complete a full data review.”

NASA also commented on the failed mission in a press release.

“As a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensed mission, the FAA and Astra will lead the investigation to understand what happened during the TROPICS-1 launch. NASA will lend any expertise needed but would expect to pause the launch effort with Astra while an investigation is being conducted to ensure we move forward when ready.”

On May 30, Astra transported the launch vehicle to Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46) for the rocket launch mission (“Governor Newsom Visits Astra, Highlights California’s Investments in Innovation,” June 9). TROPICS stands for Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats. The plan was for Astra to deploy two small satellites, or CubeSats, into low-Earth orbit. According to the mission overview, NASA planned to use these satellites to observe tropical cyclones to improve the scientific community’s understanding of these weather events.

The June 12 launch was the first of three launch missions Astra is contracted to conduct with NASA this summer. It is not known whether the other launches will still take place. Astra also has contracts for launch missions with other companies as well.

This would have been Astra’s second satellite deployment launch if successful. In March, Astra successfully launched its Rocket 3.3 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska (“Astra Launches Rocket and Payload into Space,” March 31). In this launch, Astra was able to release three different CubeSats from three different companies into orbit.

Astra launch missions have not always been successful. In February, Astra was able to launch Rocket 3.3, but a malfunction prevented the CubeSats from deploying into orbit (“Astra Rocket Unable to Complete NASA Mission,” Feb. 11).

Astra Space Inc. is headquartered at 1900 Skyhawk St. at Alameda Point. To learn more about the TROPICs mission, visit