When it comes to satellite launches, we typically think of SpaceX. It’s not the only company putting satellites into space for NASA and other agencies and companies. A satellite launch company called Astra based in Alameda has announced that it secured a contract to delivered six cube satellites into orbit for NASA. The launch contract is worth $7.95 million once fulfilled.
The launch will test the capabilities of Astra’s rocket, and a three-launch mission profile is expected. The launches will take place over up to four months, with launch targeted sometime between January 8 and July 31 of 2022. The small cube satellites the rocket will push and orbit for NASA are called Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats or TROPICS mission.
The mission’s goal is to collect data on hurricanes and the formation along with temperature, pressure, and humidity readings. Each of the small satellites placed in orbit for the mission will be approximately the size of a shoebox. Late in 2020, after was able to complete its second of three planned launches to achieve orbit. The company has said that it exceeded its expectations, and the data collected from that mission allowed it to determine that all it needs to be able to make orbit are changes to its software.
After that mission, the company said it was ready to begin flying commercial payloads into orbit. While the latest contract is its first for NASA, it isn’t the first contracted launch the company has landed. It has more than 50 missions on its books from private and government customers totaling more than $150 million once completed.