NASA Time TRopIC (Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) mission is a constellation of state-of-the-art observing platforms that will record temperature, humidity, and precipitation with unparalleled precision and frequency.
Yesterday, June 12, 2022, two TROPICS CubeSats launched atop an Astra Rocket 3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. At 1:43 p.m. EDT, the rocket was launched. Things appeared to be going well at first; however, following a successful first stage flight, the rocket’s upper stage shut down prematurely, preventing the TROPICS CubeSats from reaching orbit.
What Astra Has to Say?
“We had a nominal first stage flight,” Astra tweeted shortly after the failure. We could not send the packages to orbit because the upper stage shut down early. We’ve informed @NASA and the payload team of our regrets. We’ll share further details after a thorough analysis of the data.”
According to Scientechdaily, While NASA is disappointed by the loss of the two TROPICS CubeSats, the mission is part of the agency’s Earth venture program, which allows for lower-cost, higher-risk missions. With the four remaining CubeSats divided into two orbits, the TROPICS constellation will still accomplish its science objectives despite losing the first two of six satellites. TROPICS will continue to deliver superior time-resolved observations of tropical cyclones even with four satellites.
The FAA and Astra will lead the investigation into what happened during the TROPICS-1 launch as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified mission. NASA will provide any needed expertise, but the launch of Astra is expected to be paused until an inquiry is carried out to ensure that we move forward when we are ready.
The mission’s launch service is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, which continues to engage with new launch providers to put low-cost science missions into orbit utilizing contracts that follow commercial practices with less NASA management. Small satellites with Class D payloads can withstand a lot of risks, making them an excellent platform for technical and architectural innovation, which helps NASA with science research and development.