Astra launches second rocket from Florida, but payload does not reach orbit, officials say

First Florida launch in February spun out of control

Astra launches its Rocket 3.3 from Cape Canaveral. (NASA Spaceflight)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – California-based private space flight company Astra on Sunday attempted for the second time to launch a rocket from Florida with NASA’s help, once again failing to deliver its payload.

During the broadcast, it was clarified that the rocket’s upper-stage engine shut down early and the payload could not reach low-Earth orbit.

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The Astra Rocket 3.3 took off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station around 1:40 p.m., nearing the end of its two-hour launch window, open from 12-2 p.m.

Astra was granted licensure by the Federal Aviation Administration in the week prior, working with favorable weather conditions of 40-10% as the launch window aged, according to the 45th Weather Squadron.

The launch followed the company’s first Florida launch on Feb. 10, in which the expendable Rocket 3.3′s second stage began to spin out of control and the payload of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites mission was rendered undeliverable to low-Earth orbit.

The mission was dubbed Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats, shortened to TROPICS-1.

Astra aimed to deploy two CubeSats into NASA’s TROPICS constellation, a proving ground which would have served to demonstrate the effectiveness of low-cost orbital monitoring tools for tropical cyclones on a nearly global scale, according to the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sunday’s launch was to be the first of three, which had been planned to eventually populate the TROPICS constellation with six satellites total.

Astra bills its orbital launch systems as expendable, responsive rockets built to “dramatically lower the cost of access to space,” with such cost-cutting measures in place as engines that use kerosene fuel and a design small enough for transport inside of a standard shipping container. Fully perched, the Astra Rocket 3 is 43 feet tall, far shorter than one of SpaceX’s more than 229 feet tall Falcon 9 rockets.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.