Two Hurricane Watching Satellites Lost to Launch Failure

June 13, 2022

Space.com:

An Astra rocket carrying two small hurricane-tracking satellites for NASA failed to reach orbit Sunday (June 12) after a major malfunction shortly after liftoff. 

The Astra rocket, called Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010), suffered a second-stage failure after lifting off from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT). Two NASA cubesats, the first of a six-satellite fleet to track hurricanes as part of a $30 million mission, were lost. 

“We had a nominal first stage flight; however, the upper-stage engine did shut down early and we did not deliver our payloads to orbit,” Astra’s Amanda Durk Frye, senior manager for first stage and engine production, said during live launch commentary. 

An Astra rocket carrying two small hurricane-tracking satellites for NASA failed to reach orbit Sunday (June 12) after a major malfunction shortly after liftoff. 

The Astra rocket, called Launch Vehicle 0010 (LV0010), suffered a second-stage failure after lifting off from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT). Two NASA cubesats, the first of a six-satellite fleet to track hurricanes as part of a $30 million mission, were lost. 

“We had a nominal first stage flight; however, the upper-stage engine did shut down early and we did not deliver our payloads to orbit,” Astra’s Amanda Durk Frye, senior manager for first stage and engine production, said during live launch commentary. 

By using three pairs of TROPICS satellites, each in a different orbit, NASA hoped to monitor hurricanes and tropical storms every hour. It’s unclear if the agency can still do that with just four satellites, or if the two lost in today’s launch failure will be replaced.

Sunday’s failed launch is the second mishap this year for Astra. In February, the California-based company failed to launch four NASA cubesats as part of the ELaNa 41 mission, a flight that was also staged from its Florida launch pad and marked Astra’s first attempt to launch payloads for a customer. An issue with the rocket’s payload fairing was to blame, with Astra implementing a fix to avoid a recurrence.

5 Responses to “Two Hurricane Watching Satellites Lost to Launch Failure”

  1. ubrew12 Says:

    The three kinds of launch payloads are military, commercial, and civil. The vast majority of launches are for the first two kinds of payloads. Yet, when it comes to launch failures, civil space is grossly over-represented. I’m not sure why that is: perhaps they are not viewed by the launch companies as a serious customer. It’s true that if you lose a military or commercial payload, they’ll go somewhere else. Civil Space may be too forgiving of this kind of thing.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Maybe civil budgets cheap out?

    • neilrieck Says:

      But do they purchase insurance?

      • ubrew12 Says:

        I noticed this with the loss of two climate-science payloads in 2009. There had been like 5 rocket fairing failures in the entire history of spaceflight: one a US military mission in the 1980’s, one was S Korea’s first launch ever, one was a civil space mission in the 1990s, and the two climate science missions. This after many thousands of launches. Definitely by the 2000s: fairings don’t fail… unless somebody wants them to. What are the odds that, out of 5 fairing failures in the entire history of spaceflight, 2 of them would be missions designed to measure climate change?

        This made my ears prick up because you can fail a fairing with a roll of duct tape and the proper access after the payload has been inserted and the fairing is positioned over it. The fairing deployment mechanism is not much more powerful than the spring on your trunk cover (reason: weight, and in weightlessness, it doesn’t have to be any stronger than that).

        So now its Feb 2022, another civil space mission to measure Hurricanes and, whalla… another fairing failure! Who woulda thunk it?

        https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4354/1

        • ubrew12 Says:

          I’ll put it this way:
          Earth science missions, that measure something in Earth’s atmosphere, constitute (I’m estimating), less than 0.01% of all missions, in the history of spaceflight.

          Yet these same very rare missions now constitute 50% of all fairing failures, in the entire history of spaceflight.

          What are the odds of that happening naturally?


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