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Rocket startup’s Florida debut ends in ocean crash

CAPE CANAVERAL (AP)

The first rocket launch by a major rocket startup in Florida ended with all four mini-satellites destroyed on Thursday.

California-based company Astra sent its rocket into the air from Cape Canaveral after several delays, including a last-second engine shutdown on Monday. The 43-foot (13-meter) rocket raced through the clear afternoon sky over the Atlantic, carrying small NASA-funded research satellites.

But shortly after the first stage booster failed, the onboard cameras showed that the second stage caught fire and appeared to topple over. The video camera went dark less than four minutes after the flight and the broadcast went silent.

A commentator on the final launch confirmed that the payloads had 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. In the end, they all fell into the sea.

Astra CEO and founder, Chris Kemp, apologized for the loss in a tweet: “I’m with the team reviewing the data and we’ll provide more information as soon as possible.”

NASA mission director Hamilton Fernandez reiterated the space agency’s support after the crash.

“Tasks like these are critical to developing new launch vehicles in this growing commercial sector,” Fernandez said in a statement.

Astra is one of three companies selected by NASA in 2020 to launch small satellites. The company received $3.9 million.

Astra is attempting its first launch from Cape Canaveral, following its first successful orbit last November from Alaska’s Kodiak Island. That test flight – contracted by the US Space Force – had a dummy payload in the second stage.

The company was founded in 2016 in Alameda, California.

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https://www.winknews.com/2022/02/10/rocket-startups-florida-launch-debut-ends-in-ocean-crash/ Rocket startup’s Florida debut ends in ocean crash

Tom Vazquez

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