Suspected debris from Firefly rocket explosion discovered along Central Coast


KSBY San Luis Obispo News 03 September, 2021 - 10:14am 14 views

What time is the Vandenberg launch today?

The rocket launched at 6:59 p.m. KSBY San Luis Obispo NewsFirefly rocket explodes after launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base; officials warn of debris

Firefly's Alpha rocket lifts off but explodes shortly into first launch

CNBC 03 September, 2021 - 01:00pm

Space company Firefly launched its Alpha rocket for the first time on Thursday evening, but the vehicle had suffered an issue a couple minutes into ascent and exploded in the sky above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

Firefly was attempting to reach orbit, and its Alpha rocket went supersonic moments before the failure, according to the company's mission control audio. The rocket launched from the SLC-2 complex at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

"Alpha experienced an anomaly during first stage ascent that resulted in the loss of the vehicle. As we gather more information, additional details will be provided," the company said in a tweet.

Standing at 95 feet tall, Firefly's Alpha rocket is designed to launch as much as 1,000 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit – at a price of $15 million per launch. This puts Firefly in the "medium-lift" category of rockets, pitting it against several other companies including Richard Branson's Virgin OrbitABL Space and Relativity Space.

The first Alpha mission, called DREAM (or Dedicated Research & Education Accelerator Mission) and launching from Vandenberg's SLC-2, was a test flight and carried multiple items, with 11 technical payloads. The technical payloads include: A Teachers in Space cube satellite (which is testing a Villanova blockchain experiment), Purdue University's FireSail, the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum's small satellite, six FOSSA picosatellites, a demonstration spacecraft for Benchmark Space Systems, and the Space Electric Thruster Systems propulsion demonstration spacecraft.

Firefly, with a valuation of more than $1 billion, has raised more than $175 million to date. The company is best known for its launch business, with the Alpha and the planned Beta. But it is also working on a lunar lander called Blue Ghost and a space utility vehicle – also known as a "space tug" — to transport satellites into unique orbits after a launch.

The company had planned to launch its first Alpha rocket in December, but CEO Tom Markusic told CNBC earlier this year that Firefly "ran into some problems with readiness of the launch site" at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and also had a significant delay from a supplier of the rocket's flight termination system – a key piece required for the rocket to launch. Markusic worked at Elon Musk' SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Branson's Virgin Galactic before Firefly.

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Firefly rocket explodes after launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base

KSBY News 03 September, 2021 - 01:00pm

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The 95-foot-tall booster, built by Firefly Aerospace, lifted off at about 7 p.m. Thursday from Space Launch Complex-2.

The liftoff delivered a long rumble heard around the Lompoc and Santa Maria valleys, followed by an apparent explosion and another rumble.

“Alpha experienced an anomaly during first stage ascent that resulted in the loss of the vehicle,” the company stated on its Twitter page. “As we gather more information, additional details will be provided.”

A small crowd watching from Vandenberg Village reacted with dismay and disappointment.

Vandenberg officials confirmed that crews sent self-destruct commands to terminate the rocket's flight two minutes after liftoff while Alpha traveled over the Pacific Ocean.

Safety personnel at Vandenberg send a destruct command when a rocket or missile veers off the planned flight path or otherwise appears to be acting abnormally after liftoff.

"There were no injuries associated with the anomaly," Vandenberg officials said. "A team of investigators will convene to determine the cause of the failure."

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As it normally does before a liftoff, the military had cleared the area around the launch pad and ordered mariners to remain away from a wider-than-normal swath of the ocean off Vandenberg's coast in case of a launch failure.

"Prior to entering the countdown, the (Western) Range cleared the pad and all surrounding areas to minimize risk to Firefly employees, base staff and the general public. We are continuing to work with the Range, following all safety protocols," Firefly officials said on Twitter.

Liftoff occurred an hour after the launch window opened, with the first countdown ending in an aborted departure with seconds left. After assessing the reason for the abort, the team recycled the countdown to aim for liftoff at 7 p.m.

The company, with the motto “Making space for everyone,” has worked to create a new rocket to carry some of the smallest satellites to space for $15 million.

Alpha carried an assortment of payloads for what the firm called the Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission, or DREAM, mission.

A global competition to host academic and educational payloads ended with the selection of the rideshare participants on the inaugural flight of the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle. Alpha’s 26 DREAM payloads represented seven countries.

The payloads would not have survived the launch failure.

Firefly, based in Texas, aims to create “an economical, reliable and convenient access to space,” with the design, manufacture and operation of launch vehicles incorporating a blend off New Space practices and Heritage Space principles.

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