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Astra Cubesat Mission for NASA Fails

By Rachel Jewett | February 10, 2022

Astra’s launch on Feb. 10. The mission failed. Screenshot via Astra/NASA Spaceflight

Astra’s mission for NASA on Thursday afternoon failed after the rocket experienced an issue during flight, sending the company’s stock tumbling. 

Astra’s Rocket 3.3 took off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 3 p.m. ET, and progressed to main engine cutoff. After fairing and stage separation, the upper stage engine ignited but appeared to begin tumbling just after, from the view on the onboard camera. 

Caroline Grossman, director of Product Management for Astra said in the launch broadcast that Astra would provide more information as it goes through a data review. “Unfortunately we heard that an issue has been experienced during flight that prevented the delivery of our customer payloads to orbit today. We are deeply sorry to our customers NASA University of Alabama, the University of New Mexico and the University of California Berkeley,” Grossman said. 

The Nasdaq put a halt on Astra’s stock at 3:05 p.m. due to volatility. The stock fell 32% before it was halted. Astra has been publicly traded since July 2021, when it went public after a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger. 

NASA was the main customer on Thursday’s mission — Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa 41). The rocket was carrying four cubesats developed by three three universities and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Astra received the launch contract through NASA’s Venture Class Launch Ser­vices, which provides dedicated launch capabilities for smaller payloads. 

The launch on Thursday took place after it was scrubbed on Tuesday due to a telemetry issue. 

Astra CEO Chris Kemp made a statement on Twitter after the launch: “We experienced an issue in today’s flight. I’m deeply sorry we were not able to deliver our customer’s payloads. I’m with the team looking at data, and we will provide more info as soon as we can.” 

Astra has had one prior successful launch. The company reached orbit in November 2021 with a test payload for the U.S. Space Force.