During its inaugural launch, the Space Force blasts up a defective Firefly rocket.

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Space Force blows up malfunctioning Firefly rocket during its first flight


On Thursday evening, Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket took off on its first flight, arcing over the California coast towards the Pacific. However, shortly after hitting supersonic speeds, it began flipping and spinning and was remotely terminated for safety.

The Alpha rocket is (or was) a two-stage, 29-meter tall small-satellite delivery system designed to deliver a 1,000 kg payload to low earth orbit, or 630 kg to sun-synchronous orbit. Firefly plan to fly an Alpha rocket twice a month at a per-launch price of $15 million.

Thursday’s flight, posthumously referred to as a test flight, began slightly north of Los Angeles at the Vandenberg Space Force Base at 6:59 pm local time. The rocket did have some working satellites aboard, but only for test purposes. It lifted off without a hitch.

Footage shows that about two minutes into the Alpha’s flight, the rocket slowly starts tipping downwards. It then flips, which would’ve put enormous pressure on its body. You can see some debris break off as flames begin to encapsulate the rocket’s boosters.

After another violent rotation, the rocket explodes spectacularly.

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The Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 unit confirmed that the explosion was the intended result of the in-flight termination system, which they activated at 7:01 pm. The explosion eliminated the risk of the out-of-control Alpha crashing into a populated area.

Some debris can be spotted escaping the explosion, but it’s reported to have fallen into the ocean. There weren’t any injuries.

Firefly reflected on the flight positively in their press release: “Firefly’s First Test Flight Lasts More Than Two Minutes, With Successful Liftoff And Progression To Supersonic Speed.” I don’t think everyone would agree that liftoff and lasting two minutes qualifies as success, but I’m glad that Firefly got its needs met.

Their engineers are already sifting over the telemetry obtained during the flight to figure out what went wrong, according to them. Teams from the Vandenberg Space Force Base and the Federal Aviation Administration will be joining them.

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The Alpha model is regretfully grounded until a reason can be discovered – though I doubt Firefly has a functioning spare anyhow.



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