NASA launch contract for storm observation satellites granted to Astra

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Astra, the space launch company based in Alameda that recently announced its intention to go public through a SPAC merger, has won a contract on behalf of NASA to send six cube satellites to space. For fulfilment of the deal, Astra stands to be paid $7.95 million by the firm. With a three-launch mission profile spanning up to four months and a current target date of January 8 to July 31, 2022, this will be a crucial test of Astra’s sensitive rocket capabilities.

The satellites are a research project for NASA’s Time-Resolved Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity Measurements with a Constellation of SmallSats (TROPICS) mission, which will collect data on hurricanes and their development, including readings of temperature, pressure and humidity. The data will be obtained using a tiny constellation of satellites, each about the size of a shoebox, as the incredibly long, tortured-for-an-acronym name of the mission implies.

Late last year, Astra completed the second of three planned launches aimed at reaching orbit, and it outperformed its own goals by reaching space and nearly achieving orbit. Based on the data obtained from that mission, the company believes that the final remaining hurdles to reaching orbit can all be resolved by making software improvements. Based on that, Chris Kemp, CEO and founder of Astra, said he believes that it is now able to start flying commercial payloads.

Kemp was formerly NASA’s CTO, and over the years has also co-founded a variety of technology firms. This is far from the company’s first contracted launch, as it currently has more than 50 missions on the books from both private and government clients, worth more than $150 million in revenue.

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