astra will no longer launch nasa’s tropics satellites

Rocket launch company Astra will no longer send the remaining NASA TROPICS payloads to space, but instead will launch other “comparable” scientific missions for the agency, the company announced Wednesday. The change to the launch agreement comes a little over three months after Astra’s first TROPICS launch ended in failure after the upper stage shut down prior to delivering the payload to orbit.

NASA’s TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats) program includes a trio of launches aimed at sending a total of six earth science CubeSats to space. The TROPICS satellites will be used to measure variables like humidity and pressure inside storm systems — a need that’s especially prescient today, when Hurricane Ian made landfall on the west coast of Florida.

Astra was awarded the launch contract for TROPICS in February 2021 at a total value of $7.95 million. It is unclear whether the modification to this existing launch services agreement will change the value of the contract.

The company conducted the TROPICS I launch with its Rocket 3.3 launch vehicle, a system designed to be lightweight and cheap to launch. But just a few weeks after the failure of that mission, which resulted in a complete loss of payload, Astra announced a complete change to its business plan. Instead of continuing launches with the Rocket 3, the company said it would re-manifest all launches on the considerably larger Rocket 4. That rocket, which CEO Chris Kemp said would have a payload capacity of 600 kilograms, is still under development.

“Following the first TROPICS launch attempt, Astra and NASA engaged in discussions regarding the remaining launch attempts,” NASA said in a statement. “Astra then notified NASA of its intent to discontinue its Rocket 3.3 and indicated the company would potentially not resume launches prior to the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.”

The 12 remaining companies that are eligible to provide launch services through NASA’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare missions program will be able to compete for the TROPICS contract. These companies include ABL Space Systems, Rocket Lab, Relativity, Firefly and Virgin Orbit.

In a separate update, Astra said the premature upper-stage shutdown during the TROPICS I mission was due to “a higher-than-normal fuel consumption rate.” The company added that engineers will conduct additional tests to verify the root cause of the anomaly, but that they’ve narrowed the cause to an issue with the upper-stage engines. The investigation has been conducted with the participation of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which is standard for all rocket flight anomalies.

Astra stock price has plummeted sharply over the past six months. At the beginning of May, stock was trading north of $3.25; today, it’s worth $0.68 per share. The company began trading on the public markets in June of last year, after merging with blank-check firm Holicity.

TECH NEWS RELATED

Gift Guide: More than 20 STEM gift ideas to inspire kids to code

All aboard the learn-to-code train! As another holiday season looms and kids everywhere start clamouring for shiny stuff, we’ve got you covered with a bumper edition of our annual STEM gift guide. This year’s guide is packed with more than 20 ideas to engage toddlers, excite tweens and inspire teens ...

View more: Gift Guide: More than 20 STEM gift ideas to inspire kids to code

Meet the startups competing at TC Sessions: Space

We’re over the moon to announce the three early-stage startups that will take the stage and go head-to-head in the pitch competition at TC Sessions: Space — next Tuesday, December 6, in Los Angeles. There’s still time to join this mission. Buy your pass right now to watch these ...

View more: Meet the startups competing at TC Sessions: Space

Third-party Twitter app makers turn their attention to Mastodon

Open source Twitter alternative Mastodon has gained a bit of attention in the wake of Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition. Now, it’s gaining interest from third-party Twitter app developers, as well. The makers of popular Twitter clients, including Aviary and Tweetbot, have recently set their sights on building similar clients for ...

View more: Third-party Twitter app makers turn their attention to Mastodon

Autonomous driving’s blunders are good news for the climate

Not quite a decade ago, two technologies were racing toward an unseen finish line. They weren’t competing with each other — the adoption of one didn’t lock out the other. But to avoid catastrophic climate consequences, the order of the finish mattered. Autonomous vehicles had to lose, and electric ...

View more: Autonomous driving’s blunders are good news for the climate

How companies can slash ballooning SaaS costs

As inflation and general economic uncertainties spur C-suites to identify cost-cutting areas within their organizations, software-as-a-service (SaaS) spend is becoming a prime target. SaaS is obviously a broad category, covering any centrally hosted software that’s licensed on a subscription basis. But no matter the flavor, SaaS is a growing ...

View more: How companies can slash ballooning SaaS costs

Google’s new Pixel update brings new features like clear calling and Google One VPN

Google’s latest ‘feature drop’ for Pixel phones and the Pixel Watch brings features like a call quality enhancement function called “Clear Calling,” free access to Google One’s VPN service, a new privacy and security settings hub, and Fitbit sleep profiles for the Pixel Watch. Here’s the summary of all the ...

View more: Google’s new Pixel update brings new features like clear calling and Google One VPN

Operative Intelligence helps contact centers figure out what customers really need

A company may have a good contact center, but ideally they are able to help customers before they need to make a call. Operative Intelligence helps contact centers figure out what customers want more quickly, improving automated inquiries and cutting down on wait times. The Melbourne and Los Angeles-based ...

View more: Operative Intelligence helps contact centers figure out what customers really need

BrightDrop expands e-delivery van business to Canada with DHL Express

BrightDrop, General Motors’ electric delivery van subsidiary, added DHL Express Canada to its portfolio of customers, marking the company’s entrance into its first international market. BrightDrop has also started production on its Zevo 600 delivery vans (formerly called EV600) at GM’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ontario, the company said ...

View more: BrightDrop expands e-delivery van business to Canada with DHL Express

If Rowy has its way, if you can use Excel, you can build software

Confirmed: Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield stepping down in January

NEP and NCF: Tailwinds for school edtech

UPI clocks 19.65 billion transactions at Rs 32.5 trillion in Q3 2022: Worldline’s India Digital Payments Report

Thoughts on the demise of Circle’s SPAC deal

Zenly was the best social app and it will (sadly) shut down on February 3rd

Facebook to now test age verification tech on Facebook Dating in the U.S.

Which way is up? The end of free money and the importance of keeping cash on hand

Is this what good news feels like?

Check out what’s happening tomorrow at TC Sessions: Space

Twelve Labs lands $12M for AI that understands the context of videos

Loft Dynamics raises $20M to tackle pilot shortage with VR training

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News