CAPE CANAVERAL (CBSMiami/AP) – A watery debut for a rocket startup.
California-based Astra attempted to launch four mini satellites into orbit on Thursday from Cape Canaveral, but shortly after the first-stage booster dropped away, onboard cameras showed the second stage igniting and appearing to tumble. The video cameras went dark less than four minutes into the flight and the airwaves grew silent.
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A launch commentator finally confirmed that the payloads failed to reach orbit. Three of the CubeSats were built by universities in Alabama, New Mexico and California, while the fourth was from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. All ended up crashing into the ocean.
Astra CEO and founder Chris Kemp apologized for the loss in a tweet: “I’m with the team looking at data, and we will provide more info as soon as we can.”
NASA mission manager Hamilton Fernandez reiterated the space agency’s support following the accident.
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“Missions like these are critical for developing new launch vehicles in this growing commercial sector,” Fernandez said in a statement.
Astra was among three companies picked by NASA in 2020 to launch small satellites. The company received $3.9 million.
Astra was attempting its first launch from Cape Canaveral, following its first successful orbital launch last November from Alaska’s Kodiak Island. That test flight — contracted by the U.S. Space Force — featured a dummy payload on the second stage.
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(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)