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Inaugural Firefly Aerospace launch explodes into flames


The debut launch of a new rocket from Cedar Park-based company Firefly Aerospace came down in flames after taking off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California yesterday.

(Courtesy of Nora K. Wallace)

Standing nearly 100 feet tall, the rocket took off at 9 p.m. Thursday with a groan, followed by an unintended fireworks show after two minutes in the air. A Firefly statement said they didn't meet all of their launch objectives, though they did meet goals of a successful first launch initiation, flight data, liftoff from the pad and progression to supersonic speed.

The company said they will provide more information as it becomes available.

"Alpha experienced an anomaly resulting in an early end of the mission," Firefly announced on Twitter. "We are happy to report that there were no injuries associated with the anomaly."

Firefly's unsuccessful launch is not the first of its kind—Electron, LauncherOne, Rocket 3.1 all failed their first launch as well, according to senior space editor at Ars Technica Eric Berger on Twitter.

The Alpha rocket carried 203 pounds of payload, the weight in the flight that generates revenue, which Firefly refers to as "DREAM"—Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission—that contains tiny satellites and memorabilia from schools.

Firefly's upcoming Space Utility Vehicle, a solar-electric space tug that delivers payloads into orbit, also took a ride on the vehicle.

The company planned to carry the load into orbit 186 miles above the Earth, though safety personnel sent a destruct command when the craft began to veer off course.

"We want to thank the teams at Vandenberg Space Force Base and Space Launch Delta 30 for their partnership in this launch and the FAA for their continued support," Firefly said.

For now, the company is continuing to work toward its Blue Ghost, a Beta and robotic moon lander that Firefly is developing for NASA, and Gamma, a reusable space plane that can provide fast transportation from Earth to the cosmos.


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