Update on NASA’s TROPICS-1 Mission


While we are disappointed in the loss of the two TROPICS CubeSats, the mission is part of NASA’s Earth venture program, which provides opportunities for lower-cost, higher risk missions. Despite a loss of the first two of six satellites, the TROPICS constellation will still meet its science objectives with the four remaining CubeSats distributed in two orbits.  With four satellites, TROPICS will still provide improved time-resolved observations of tropical cyclones compared to traditional observing methods.

TROPICS is an Earth venture mission – science-driven, competitively selected, low-cost missions that provide opportunity for investment in innovative Earth science to enhance our capability to better understand the current state of the Earth system and to enable continual improvement in the prediction of future changes.   

As the agency works with emerging launch providers for cost-effective launch capabilities to space, these types of missions are important to expand our scientific knowledge while fostering the U.S. commercial launch industry.   

As a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensed mission, the FAA and Astra will lead the investigation to understand what happened during the TROPICS-1 launch. NASA will lend any expertise needed but would expect to pause the launch effort with Astra while an investigation is being conducted to ensure we move forward when ready. 

NASA’s Launch Services Program, which is managing the launch service for the mission, continues to work with emerging launch providers to deliver low-cost science missions into orbit with contracts that align with commercial practices, using less NASA oversight to achieve lower launch costs. Small satellites and Class D payloads tolerate relatively high risk and serve as an ideal platform for technical and architecture innovation, contributing to NASA’s science research and technology development.  

Thanks to the transparency displayed by Astra, NASA has been involved with the investigation on Astra’s previous launch. Additionally, we have been engaged in the discussions about lessons learned and corrective actions. We recognize the risks inherent in a new launch provider and will lend our assistance as needed.    

Last Updated: Jun 13, 2022

Editor: Tylar Greene

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Old Man Winter
June 16, 2022 4:25 am

Astra’s first successful launch was last November & their track record is “two successes, five failures and an additional booster destroyed on the launch pad by a fire. The company flew two suborbital flight tests that the company declared a success but outsiders have judged to be a failure.”



June 16, 2022 4:41 am

“lower-cost, higher risk missions”

I suppose it all depends on who is taking the risks…

“NASA is worried that Elon Musk’s SpaceX will destroy its only route to the International Space Station.

In an interview this week, a top agency official warned that the firm’s new rocket risks blowing up parts of the Kennedy Space Centre.”


Starship will be, I would wager, quite a bit cheaper than NASAs non-reusable SLS.  

“In 2019, Ars Technica reported that it could cost over $2 billion to launch the rocket once in a given year. In March 2022, it emerged it could cost up to $4.1 billion.”

And Starships will be reusable.

Last edited 11 months ago by strativarius
Reply to  fretslider
June 16, 2022 5:46 am

Look at the date on that article, yesterday. What a coincidence that Musk is getting bad press like this and that suddenly NHTSA has decided to investigate Tesla autopilot crashes. Could, by chance, it have anything to do with Musk’s newly made public political views???

Yes I do realize that the Tesla autopilot is seriously flawed and should have been investigated years ago.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  MR166
June 16, 2022 6:26 am

Tesla should just disable autopilot remotely in every car they’ve sold.
My GMC Denali truck has adaptive cruise control but I don’t trust it for a second on the Interstate with all the big trucks moving in and out of lanes in front of me as I drive 80 and they’re doing 70-75.
Dumb to expect autodriving to adapt and anticipate that behavior.

Reply to  MR166
June 16, 2022 7:37 am

Tesla has defective owners.

They know they are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel, the ‘autopilot’ is not ready for prime time and is not really legal the way some idiots have used it (like sitting in the back seat while the car drives itself).

Paul Johnson
Reply to  MR166
June 16, 2022 10:40 am

The Biden Administration’s attacks on Elon Musk will be a “whole of government” effort.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  fretslider
June 16, 2022 5:48 am

NASA needs to get out of the heavy-lift business. All they do is waste billions of dollars.

Let the private contractors do the launching.

June 16, 2022 5:20 am

NASA used to be an awe inspiring agency. Now it is nothing more than another government swamp creature. Their new politically inspired agenda has rendered them worse than useless. I know that the launch failed, ( What a surprise! /s) but at least they have climate scientists there capable enough to massage the data in order to make it look like a success. They will probably blame it on climate change.

BTW I would exclude the Webb and Hubble teams from that comment.

Last edited 11 months ago by MR166
Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  MR166
June 16, 2022 6:36 am

Webb is14 years behind originally planned launch date (2021 versus 2007) and double its original cost estimates at $9 billion now.

”Because the runaway budget diverted funding from other research, a 2010 Nature article described JWST as “the telescope that ate astronomy””

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
June 16, 2022 4:04 pm

Normal operations for NASA (and all government) though. Most likely, only half, if that much, of the “other research” would have been accomplished as they ran far beyond their time and money budgets.

June 16, 2022 5:20 am

Astra now has the stunning record of 7 failures out of 9 attempts.
Th news here is that these bright bulbs loaded the rocket with 2, not 1 satellite.
Having two payloads on an Astra and expecting both to get deployed successfully is delusional.
Expecting both to get blown up is the likely expectation.
If, as usual, they double down on failure and use more Astra rockets, they should go into mass production of TROPICS CubeSats, so as not to impair the actual mission.

Old Man Winter
Reply to  TonyL
June 16, 2022 6:06 am

Their first failure was a guidance problem & the second, they ran out of fuel before reaching orbit.
Since then, it’s been engine problems, possibly separate issues. Right or wrong, I’m guessing NASA
will give them a “last chance” hoping they get it fixed, thus giving them another supplier in that
rocket class. The USAF used that logic 50+ yrs ago to buy the C-5 from Lockheed vs giving Boeing a fair chance as Sen Russell from GA chaired the Armed Services Committee. That move kept Lockheed alive & gave us $200+ toilet seats!

Last edited 11 months ago by Old Man Winter
Reply to  Old Man Winter
June 16, 2022 8:51 am

Those toilet seats were for subs, not planes. They were also stainless steel, came with clamps, were water tight and had to withstand high pressure while clamped down.
Spend a few minutes thinking about what it takes to flush a toilet while a sub is submerged.

Old Man Winter
Reply to  MarkW
June 16, 2022 9:20 am

That could be a really rough ride for The Tidy Bowl Man!

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  TonyL
June 16, 2022 6:44 am

The program needs at minimum 4 sv in proper orbits. 4 is all thats left in storage. That’s all they’re going to get with the Democrat Socialists running Congress wanting more money for social “justice” welfare vote buying.
A Real pucker factor now for Nasa Tropics program officials whether to risk them on another Astra launch. My guess is “no” they will do something else, another launch vehicle with a years delay. and Astra will fold. The stock market agrees with that if you look at ASTR stock price.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
June 16, 2022 4:52 pm

Next up will be transgender satellites.

Peta of Newark
June 16, 2022 6:43 am

Jim Steele and so many other Minutia Miners will be ever so chuffed.

Watching and taking pretty pictures of hurricanes is ‘after the fact’
As if photos of a car wrapped around a tree tells what caused the wreck – was the tree at fault, the car / its driver at fault or some other third party?

Criusing by with a Rubber Neck and a camera tells you nothing, except for leading you onto a path littered with wild speculations

No. We wanna know what happened prior to the wreck/hurricane – what caused it/either.

Last edited 11 months ago by Peta of Newark
June 16, 2022 6:58 am

NASA. Continuing in the tradition of spending the taxpayer’s money to keep the “scientists” employed for questionable missions better accomplished via the private sector.

June 16, 2022 8:42 am

In the meantime, SpaceX launches 50+ Starlink satellites bigger than Tropics every other week or so. Tropics are small.. put them on a SpaceX ride share trip.

AGW is Not Science
June 16, 2022 9:35 am

TROPICS is an Earth venture mission – science-driven, competitively selected, low-cost missions that provide opportunity for investment in innovative Earth science to enhance our capability to better understand the current state of the Earth system and to enable continual improvement in the prediction of future changes.

Translation of this word salad: This is a mission to mine for fodder to prop up the climate propaganda and related doom and gloom “predictions.”

To the extent they can’t get anything ‘useful’ out of it in that respect, they’ll just make like it doesn’t exist.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
June 17, 2022 10:42 am

Anytime anyone in a government organization must advertise their objectives as “science-driven”, you know beforehand that the woke personna have taken over the public relations department.

What I really want to know is which government organizations are not “science-driven”, because whatever they think that means, it must eventually mean abandoning the scientific method for groupthink instead.

June 16, 2022 11:01 am

This mission must not have been a high priority, considering Astra’s success rate.

June 16, 2022 4:13 pm

Is this as simple as the folly of using the low bidder for space launches?
It feels like the guy in charge of the Afghan withdrawal got transferred to NASA.

June 16, 2022 4:42 pm

What a pile of mumbo jumbo gibberish.

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