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Astra Wins $8M NASA Launch Contract

By Rachel Jewett | March 4, 2021

Astra’s December 15, 2020 rocket launch. Photo: Astra

Astra has won a $7.95 million launch contract with NASA to launch a constellation of six cubesats for storm research over three launches. NASA announced the firm fixed-price contract on Feb. 26. 

Called TROPICS — the Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats mission — is set to launch on the company’s Rocket 3 between Jan. 8 and July 31, 2022. It will launch from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean with three separate launches over a 120-day period. 

“NASA’s selection of high-cadence launches that directly insert the satellites into the right orbits validates Astra’s approach,” said Adam London, Founder and CTO of Astra. “Larger rockets are too expensive for dedicated small satellite missions and orbital transfer vehicles take too long to get to the right orbit – we believe dedicated, direct insertion will be an increasingly preferred way to deploy satellite constellations.”

Astra is among the spree of space start-ups to announce plans to go public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Astra is building a mass-produced portable smallsat launch system that can go from payload delivery to launch within days, and the company hit the milestone of reaching space for the first time in December 2020.