American rocket manufacturer Astra conducted its seventh launch on June 12, 2022. While the initial phase of the launch was successful, the rocket experienced problems soon after, and failed to reach orbit.
“We had a nominal first stage flight. 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,” Astra stated in a Twitter post.
The rocket had been carrying two small weather monitoring satellites as part of NASA’s TROPICS mission.
According to Spacenews.com, a livestream of the event showed the rocket’s upper stage starting to tumble four minutes after the separation of the second stage and the ignition of the upper stage engine.
The cause of the failure has not been immediately disclosed by Astra, however, the company stated that it will provide further information following a full data review.
This marks either the fifth or seventh failure for Astra.
The first two test launches of Rocket 1 and Rocket 2 prototypes, conducted in 2018, ended with the rockets exploding, although Astra declared both launches a success.
The first launch of Rocket 3 in September 2020 resulted in the rocket veering off course before being immediately terminated. Two further launches were also unsuccessful due to engine problems.
In November 2021, Astra received its first success, launching a payload for the US Space Force. This was followed by an unsuccessful launch in February 2022, and another successful one in March 2022.
Out of seven non-test launches, just two have been fully successful for Astra so far.
The company’s next two launches are scheduled for June and July 2022. Both missions will carry four more satellites for NASA’s TROPICS mission.