Astra Rocket Fails and Two 

Nasa Satellites Are Lost

California-based Astra on 

Sunday launched two shoebox-size NASA satellites from Cape Canaveral in a modest mission to improve hurricane forecasts

The second stage of the

company's low-cost booster malfunctioned before reaching orbit and the payloads were lost.

"The upper stage shut down early

and we did not deliver the payloads to orbit," Astra tweeted. "We have shared our regrets with @NASA and the payload team

 It was the seventh

 launch of Astra's small "Venture-class" rocket and the company's fifth failure.

Sunday's launch was 

the first of three planned for NASA to launch six small CubeSats, two at a time, into three orbital planes.

The NASA contract calls

 for the final two flights by the end of July. Whether Astra can meet that schedule given Sunday's failure is not yet known.

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