Engine Failure Doomed Firefly Alpha’s Maiden Flight

The premature shutdown of one of Firefly Alpha’s four first stage Reaver engines 15 seconds into the flight doomed the maiden launch of the new booster from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday, the company said.

“It was an uneventful shutdown – the engine didn’t fail — the propellant main valves on the engine simply closed and thrust terminated from engine 2. The vehicle continued to climb and maintain control for a total of about 145 seconds, whereas nominal first stage burn duration is about 165 seconds. However, due to missing the thrust of 1 of 4 engines the climb rate was slow, and the vehicle was challenged to maintain control without the thrust vectoring of engine 2,” Firefly said in a commentary accompanying a new video of the launch.

“Alpha was able to compensate at subsonic speeds, but as it moved through transonic and into supersonic flight, where control is most challenging, the three engine thrust vector control was insufficient and the vehicle tumbled out of control. The range terminated the flight using the explosive Flight Termination System (FTS). The rocket did not explode on its own,” the statement said.

“Firefly has commenced a thorough anomaly investigation to gain understanding of why engine 2 shutdown early, and uncover any other relevant unexpected events during flight. We will report root cause of the anomaly at the end of this investigation. In collaboration with the FAA and our partners at Space Launch Delta 30, we will return to conduct the second Alpha flight as soon as possible,” Firefly said.

“Although the vehicle did not make it to orbit, the day marked a major advancement for the Firefly team, as we demonstrated that we “arrived” as a company capable of building and launching rockets. We also acquired a wealth of flight data that will greatly enhance the likelihood of Alpha achieving orbit during its second flight. In short, we had a very successful first flight,” the company added.

Firefly Aerospace Reviewing Flight Data of Failed Alpha Rocket Launch

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif., September 2, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Today we conducted the first-ever test flight of our Alpha booster. Prior to the anomaly, we had a countdown and lift off at 6:59 pm local time. While we did not meet all of our mission objectives, we did achieve a number of them: successful first stage ignition, liftoff off the pad, progression to supersonic speed, and we obtained a substantial amount of flight data.

More than two minutes into the flight, Apha experienced an anomaly resulting in the early end of the mission. At Firefly, our goal is to always look out for the safeyt of our employees, partners, and community. We are happy to report that there were no injuries associated with the anomaly.

While it’s too early to draw conclusions as to the root cause, we will be diligent in our investigation, in partnership with the FAA and Vandenberg Space Force Base. We will utilize the data we obtained from the test flight and apply it to future missions. Our engineers are currently combing through thousands of lines of ground and flight system telemetry in order to better understand what occurred.

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. We will be providing further updates as more information becomes available.

Full Video of Firefly Alpha’s Launch & Explosion

Video Caption: Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket suffered an in-flight anomaly on its debut launch. Shot on September 2nd, 2021 from the press site at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Video and Pictures from Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer) and Michael Baylor (@NextSpaceFlight). Edited by Jack Beyer.

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.

Firefly Alpha Launch Scheduled for Thursday Evening From Vandenberg

Tom Markusic and Lauren Lyons in front of Firefly Alpha rocket on the pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

Firefly Aerospace will attempt the maiden flight of its Alpha booster later today from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The window for the rideshare mission extends from 6 to 10 p.m. PDT (0100-0500 UTC on Friday). A livestream of the launch will be available through Everyday Astronaut beginning one hour before the scheduled liftoff.

The rideshare mission will carry a number of payloads, which are show below.

PayloadPurposeCompany/ OrganizationNation
 DREAMCubeSat deployerFireflyUSA
BSS1 (DFAST Demonstrator)Technology demonstrationBenchmark SpaceUSA
CRESST DREAM COMETTechnology demonstrationUniversity of CambridgeUK
Firefly Capsule 1EducationFireflyUSA
FOSSASAT 1bLoRa communicationsFOSSA SystemsSpain
FOSSASAT 2PhotographyFOSSA SystemsSpain
GENESIS LAmateur radio/PropulsionAMSAT-EASpain
GENESIS NAmateur radio/PropulsionAMSAT-EASpain
HiapoThermospheric researchHawaii Science and Technology MuseumUSA
NPS-CENETIX-Orbital 1Technology demonstrationAT&T / NPSUSA
PICOBUS-1PocketQube deployerLibre Space FoundationGreece
QUBIK 1Amateur radioLibre Space FoundationGreece
QUBIK 2Amateur radioLibre Space FoundationGreece
Spinnaker3Technology demonstrationPurdue UniversityUSA
TIS SerenityEducationTeachers in Space, Inc.USA

Source: Wikipedia

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.

Spacecraft Deorbiting Device Developed at Purdue Ready for Firefly Alpha Launch on Thursday

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue University PR) — A drag sail that a team at Purdue University developed to pull launch vehicles in space back to Earth is scheduled to undergo a test launch on Thursday (Sept. 2).

The mission, set to take off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, will evaluate how well the prototype helps its vehicle deorbit from space after mission completion. A livestream of the launch will be available through Everyday Astronaut.

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Rogue Space and Firefly Aerospace Sign Launch Service Agreement

Part of a strategic collaboration to meet the growing demand for reliable in-space transport and access to  geostationary orbit (GEO), Rogue Space has contracted  Firefly as their first launch vehicle supplier  targeting an initial launch in Q3 2023. 

LACONIA, NH (August 30, 2021) Rogue Space Systems Corporation, a U.S. company that is developing a smart spacecraft program and is planning to offer transport, and in-space services to the growing space market, and Firefly Aerospace, a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced they have signed a Launch Service Agreement (LSA). The agreement confirms that Rogue has secured the entire payload  mass capacity aboard a Firefly Alpha rocket, scheduled for liftoff from Cape  Canaveral  in the fall of 2023.  

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Firefly Alpha Completes Static Fire at Vandenberg, Launch Scheduled for Sept. 2

Firefly Aerospace has completed a successful static fire of its Alpha booster at the Vandenberg Space Force Station. The company also announced that it is planning the inaugural launch of the new rocket on Sept. 2 from the California military base.

The rideshare mission will carry a number of payloads, which are show below.

PayloadPurposeCompany/ OrganizationNation
 DREAMCubeSat deployerFireflyUSA
BSS1 (DFAST Demonstrator)Technology demonstrationBenchmark SpaceUSA
CRESST DREAM COMETTechnology demonstrationUniversity of CambridgeUK
Firefly Capsule 1EducationFireflyUSA
FOSSASAT 1bLoRa communicationsFOSSA SystemsSpain
FOSSASAT 2PhotographyFOSSA SystemsSpain
GENESIS LAmateur radio/PropulsionAMSAT-EASpain
GENESIS NAmateur radio/PropulsionAMSAT-EASpain
HiapoThermospheric researchHawaii Science and Technology MuseumUSA
NPS-CENETIX-Orbital 1Technology demonstrationAT&T / NPSUSA
PICOBUS-1PocketQube deployerLibre Space FoundationGreece
QUBIK 1Amateur radioLibre Space FoundationGreece
QUBIK 2Amateur radioLibre Space FoundationGreece
Spinnaker3Technology demonstrationPurdue UniversityUSA
TIS SerenityEducationTeachers in Space, Inc.USA
Source: Wikipedia

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.

Firefly to Become the Premier Supplier of Rocket Engines and Spaceflight Components for the Emerging New Space Industry

Reaver engines (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, August 6, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced the launch of a new line of business dedicated to supplying rocket engines and other spaceflight components to the emerging New Space industry. 

“Our goal with this line of business is to become the Tier 1 supplier of components to the New Space industry,” said Tom Markusic, CEO of Firefly Aerospace. “Our component sales business model has inherent advantages over businesses that focus on a single (e.g., rocket engines) or narrow range (e.g., valves) of components.”

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Firefly Aerospace Completes Oversubscribed $75M Series A and $100M Secondary Transaction

CEDAR PARK, Texas, May 4, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced the successful completion of its Series A financing. The $75 million Series A, which valued the company at greater than $1 billion, was led by DADA Holdings, with participation by Astera Institute, Canon Ball LLC, Reuben Brothers Limited, SMS Capital Investment LLC, Raven One Ventures, The XBTO Ventures and other investors. The Series A capital raise team was led by Darren Ma, Firefly CFO. Investor outreach was led by Eric Salwan, Firefly Co-founder and Director of Commercial Business Development. Jed McCaleb, representing Astera Institute, will join Firefly’s Board of Directors.

Interest in the Series A round far exceeded the $75 million equity being offered. In an effort to satisfy the overwhelming demand in the Series A round, Firefly’s seed investor, Noosphere Ventures, sold approximately $100 million of its holdings of Firefly equity to certain Series A participants and other investors through secondary transactions. Following the forthcoming launch of its flagship Alpha small launch vehicle, Firefly intends to raise an additional $300 million later in 2021 to fund its ambitious growth plans through 2025.

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Firefly Aerospace and Exolaunch Announce Launch Services Agreement

CEDAR PARK, TEXAS, February 10, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced a Launch Services Agreement with Exolaunch GmbH, a leading provider of launch services, mission management and separation systems, to integrate and launch multi-satellite clusters aboard Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle beginning in 2022.

Just weeks away from the maiden launch of its Alpha rocket, Firefly plans to swiftly accelerate the frequency of Alpha flights through collaborative partnerships, including this strategic partnership with Exolaunch, a German small-satellite integrator known for its substantial flight heritage, flight-proven deployment technologies and high reliability.

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Firefly Aerospace and Adaptive Launch Solutions Sign Multi-Launch Agreement

CEDAR PARK, Texas, December 23, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, and Adaptive Launch Solutions (ALS), a designer of multi-manifest hardware, avionics and sequencers, and an integrator of single and multiple satellites, today announced they have signed a multi-year Launch Services Agreement (LSA) which includes four Alpha launches beginning in 2021.

“Small launch provides small satellite owners right sized, right priced access to space meeting their program and business goals,” said Phil Smith, CEO of ALS. “Our agreement with Firefly Aerospace will provide the flexibility and responsiveness demanded by government operators and commercial owners. Under the agreement, ALS is the launch service provider for Alpha Flights 2 and 3, planned for launch in 2021. These two missions offer our customers the earliest commercial launch opportunities on Firefly Alpha. ALS brings to our Firefly partnership decades of launch integration experience, most recently utilized on the United States Space Force (USSF) Launch Manifest Systems Integrator (LMSI) program. The LMSI program team delivers capabilities and integration approaches that establish U.S. government enterprise-wide capability for small satellite delivery to space.”

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Firefly Black Awarded NASA Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 Contract

WASHINGTON (Firefly Black PR) — Firefly Black, LLC is pleased to announce its selection by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the launch of Mission Two of the Venture Class Launch Service Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contract. Mission Two involves launch of two CubeSat constellations to a 550 km Sun-Synchronous Orbit, separated by a minimum of 10 degrees in plane change.

“Firefly Black is pleased to have been selected by NASA for this operationally challenging mission. We applaud NASA’s commitment to the nation’s emerging small launch industrial base and look forward to supporting America’s civil space launch needs for many years,” said Leslie Kovacs, company President. “The all-private development of our Alpha launch vehicle, and the impending completion of our Space Launch Complex 2 conversion at Vandenberg AFB, are on schedule to support the maiden Firefly Alpha launch in the first quarter of 2021. The men and women of Firefly, and our supply chain partners, are excited by this partnership with NASA.”

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Space Florida Reaches Milestone on Redevelopment of Space Launch Complex 20, Signs Lease with Firefly

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (Space Florida PR) — As Space Florida continues re-development of Space Launch Complex 20 (SLC-20) at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as a multi-pad commercial launch site and home to Firefly Aerospace’s east coast launch operations, a significant milestone was reached in October with Space Florida’s completion of an Environmental Assessment encompassing modernization of facilities and high-cadence launch operations from the site.

Completion of this critical environmental review enables Firefly’s continued development and future operations at SLC-20, while ensuring that such activities pose no significant impact to the treasured natural assets of the spaceport.

Additionally, in October, Space Florida’s Board of Directors authorized Space Florida to enter long-term lease agreements for the site with the 45th Space Wing and Firefly, marking another important milestone in the ongoing transformation of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport into a hub for commercial space operations.

Space Florida would further like to congratulate Firefly on completion of acceptance testing and delivery of the first Alpha launch vehicle to Vandenberg AFB in preparation for the company’s initial launch.

We look forward to a successful mission as Firefly emerges as a leader in the small launch market, and continues preparation of both the SLC-20 launch site and the company’s new high-volume automated rocket factory in Space Florida’s Exploration Park at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.