Firefly Alpha Rocket Fails in Maiden Launch Attempt

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket failed in its maiden launch attempt on Thursday evening, dealing a setback to the Tom Markusic-led company that is seeking to establish itself in the small-satellite launch industry.

Video of the flight showed the two stage rocket tumbling out of control before exploding after liftoff at 6:59 p.m. PDT from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The explosion occurred about 1 minute 45 seconds into the flight.

“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 Texas-based company tweeted.

The rocket was carrying small satellites from the United States, United Kingdom, Greece and Spain.

Failure on a maiden rocket launch is not unusual. Launch vehicles that suffered catastrophic failures on their first flights have gone on to succeed.

The two-stage, 29 meter (95 foot) tall Alpha booster is capable of delivery one metric ton (2,205 lb) to low Earth orbit and 630 kg (1,389 lb) to a 500 km (311 mile) high sun-synchronous orbit. Firefly is charging $15 million for a dedicated launch.