California-based launch services company Astra Space Inc reported that its rocket failed to deliver its satellite payloads to orbit on Thursday in the startup's first commercial flight, a mission for NASA.
Astra's director of product management, Carolina Grossman, said during a livestream minutes after the launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida that "an issue has been experienced during flight that prevented the delivery of our customer payloads to orbit."
"More information will be provided as we complete a data review," she said, adding that the company was "deeply sorry to our customers."
The announcement came about 14 minutes after Astra's two-stage, kerosene-fueled Launch Vehicle 0008, also known as Rocket 3.3, blasted off at 3 p.m. EST (1000 GMT) and soared into the clear blue skies over Florida.
Shares of Astra Space, which went public in July, fell 32% to $3.59 in trading on the Nasdaq.
Thursday's liftoff and initial flight of the rocket, shown on an Astra-NASA livestream, appeared to be a success. But a video camera feed from the upper stage of the rocket itself cut off about five minutes after launch, followed by a long pause in livestream commentary.
The ELaNa 41 mission was designed to carry four miniature research satellites, or CubeSats, into orbit for NASA -- three of them developed by public universities and one by NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston.
The failed flight came on the third launch try. The previous attempt on Monday was aborted at T-minus zero of the countdown, just as the rocket's engines were about to ignite. Astra officials said Monday's launch was automatically scrubbed when systems detected a minor telemetry glitch, which they later said was resolved and would not have affected the flight in any case.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; 310-491-7256; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))