Private space company ‘sorry’ for NASA satellites destruction
Astra CEO Chris Kemp apologized on Twitter on Thursday after a failure minutes after launch saw the company’s rocket spin out of control and fall toward Earth, destroying four small NASA CubeSats.
“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,” Kemp said in a statement.
The rocket had been carrying four small satellites as part of NASA’s ELaNa 41 mission, which the space agency has claimed is an “exciting initiative” that is designed “to attract and retain students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematic disciplines.”
Three satellites were created by educational establishments, while one was built by NASA’s Johnson Space Center. NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration, which awarded the contract, does accept that its activities present a “higher level of risk than larger missions.”
The cause of the failure has not been revealed yet but initial media reports suggested that the problem was due to the separation of the upper stage of the rocket from the booster. California-based Astra has previously attempted four orbital launches, three of which failed and the fourth did not carry a payload.
The latest failure sent Astra’s share price into freefall, ultimately closing 26% lower.
CubeSats are small satellite payloads that are launched via rockets into space, “playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstrations, scientific research, and educational investigations at NASA,” according to the agency.