Last Tuesday, Texas-based space company Firefly Aerospace launched its first rocket: Firefly Alpha. As rival SpaceX continues to grow in reputation — and Blue Origin dishes out lawsuits — the Alpha launch was supposed to be a huge achievement.
Unfortunately, the Firefly Alpha launch was not a success. While the rocket successfully took off from the launch pad, the vessel exploded mid-flight. However, the company still sees the mission as a “major advancement” for the team.
Why did Firefly Alpha explode?
Upon take-off, it was already looking bleak for Firefly’s rocket. Just seconds into flight, the Alpha rocket was starting to experience issues. At 15-seconds, the rocket’s second engine failed, sputtering flames from behind instead of a solid stream. However, the Alpha continued to climb, albeit slower than expected.
Two minutes in and Firefly Alpha started to tilt. At this point, engine two was dead; the force of the remaining three engines caused a massive shift in direction. Once the rocket reached supersonic, the vehicle spun out. In response, Firefly activated the Flight Termination System to safely explode the vessel.
Thankfully, Firefly’s rocket was starting unmanned ship. The vessel’s payload — a collection of private satellites — were collateral in the explosion.
A learning experience
Alpha’s explosion has not deterred Firefly Aerospace from future projects. On Twitter, the company explained that it’s working in “collaboration with the FAA and our partners at Space Launch Delta 30” to investigate the explosion. Furthermore, the company will “return to conduct Alpha Flight 2 as soon as possible”.
Firefly says that it already has “a wealth of flight data that will greatly enhance the likelihood of Alpha achieving orbit” next time.