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Astra launch a failure when upper stage shuts down prematurely

Capitalism in space: A launch attempt today by Astra of two NASA weather cubesats, designed to study the evolution of storms in the tropics, was a failure when the upper stage engine shut down prematurely.

This was the second launch failure for Astra out of three launch attempts in 2022. Both this failure and the February 10th failure occurred after the first stage has successfully done its job. The first was due to the failure of the fairings to separate. Today the fairing ejected properly, but then the second stage engine failed.

The launch however did illustrate something quite profound. Though it occurred about one hour and forty-three minutes into its two hour launch window, the launch team was able to recycle the count three times due to various issues and still launch. What makes this significant is that such quick countdown recycles have now become very routine.

When SpaceX did its first quick countdown recycle back during its first Falcon-1 launches in the 2000s it was astonishing, as NASA would never do such a thing. If a NASA shuttle launch aborted close to launch, the agency would always stand down for at least a day to figure things out. Even today, its ability to do a quick countdown recycle with its SLS rocket is almost impossible, as shown during its first attempt to do a dress rehearsal countdown of SLS in April. With each abort the agency had to reschedule for the next day or even later. It had little ability to quickly turn things around.

Private enterprise has since proven that such slow operations are inefficient and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, Astra needs to fix this issue and launch again. It was able to investigate and fix the fairing issue that caused that February launch failure in just over a month. Hopefully it can do the same again.

Conscious Choice cover

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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


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  • Patrick Underwood

    Astra and these other small launch companies need to come up with a better way for their livestream hosts to handle their inevitable failures on camera. It’s obvious you had a problem. Just say so.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I thought I saw some unusually abrupt and large 2nd-stage nozzle movements moments before the failure, and heard a groan when the display became obviously mis-aligned with the expected trajectory.

    But to your point, Patrick, yes it is a bit off-putting to be left clueless when something goes wrong. The sudden transition from bonhomie to dead air feels inappropriate.

    Yes, it is true that the launch team will be busy, but in this type of failure, nobody is going to be able to recover the situation anyway, and one person should be designated to inform the audience that there had been a catastrophic failure and the mission is lost.

  • Personally, my biggest complaint about the announcers during the live feed had to do with the guy. How many times can you say “Gotcha!”?

  • Alton

    Not Enough….

    Nien Enough. !!!

    ??? ????????….

    Now WE return to your normal
    Boring programming……
    Already in progress from

  • wayne

    Why are they wearing masks?

  • wayne

    If we are assembling the dream-team for color commentary, I vote for John Innsbrucker and that girl from Rocketlab.

  • wayne: Because there is a sad element of stupidity in Astra’s management, that suggests an explanation for the launch failures.

    If you watched closely, during the longest hold three of four people in that mission control had dropped their masks so they covered only their chin and neck. They obviously knew the masks were absurd.

  • pzatchok

    I want that soccer announcer who screams GGGOOOAALLLLLL!!!!!

  • ” . . . and that girl from Rocketlab.”

    That Girl

  • wayne


    While I was enamored with That Girl, I meant this lady–> Murielle Baker, Senior Communications Advisor, Rocket Lab.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Kate Tice ❤️

  • Ray Van Dune

    I am surprised we have not heard anything about the FAA findings on SpaceX yet, either here or elsewhere. Do you think we will soon?

  • Ray Van Dune: No update from the FAA, as yet. They will either publish their findings today, or delay again. That they have not yet announced a delay strongly suggests they intend to publish later today.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I am concerned there is some last-minute intervention going on in the FAA EAP. If Trump was President I wouldn’t be worried. As is…

  • See my most recent post.

  • wayne

    Ray Van Dune–
    –can’t forget Miss Tice!

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