The company’s first alpha rocket explodes during its orbital launch attempt on September 2, 2021.

Firefly aerospace

Space company Firefly first launched its Alpha rocket Thursday night, but the vehicle had suffered a problem a few minutes after ascending and exploded in the skies over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

Firefly was trying to reach orbit and its Alpha missile went supersonic just before failure, according to the company’s Mission Control Audio. The rocket was launched from the SLC-2 complex on Vandenberg Space Force Base.

“Alpha detected an anomaly during the first ascent that resulted in the loss of the vehicle. As soon as we gather more information, more details will be announced,” the company said in a tweet.

At a height of 95 feet, Firefly’s Alpha rocket is expected to bring up to 1,000 kilograms of payload into low earth orbit – at a cost of $ 15 million per launch. This puts Firefly in the medium-lift rocket category and competes against several other companies, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, ABL Space and Relativity Space.

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket rests on the launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, on September 2, 2021.

Andrew Evers | CNBC

The first alpha mission, called DREAM (or Dedicated Research & Education Accelerator Mission) and launched by Vandenberg’s SLC-2, was a test flight and carried several items with 11 technical payloads. Engineering payloads include: a Teachers in Space Cube satellite (testing a Villanova blockchain experiment), Purdue University’s FireSail, the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum’s small satellite, six FOSSA picosatellites, a Benchmark Space Systems demonstration spacecraft, and the Space Electric Thruster Systems propulsion demonstration spacecraft.

Firefly, valued at more than $ 1 billion, has raised more than $ 175 million to date. The company is best known for its alpha and planned beta launch businesses. It is also working on a lunar lander called the 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 missile in December, but CEO Tom Markusic told CNBC earlier this year that Firefly had “encountered some launch readiness issues” and one at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California had significant delay from a supplier of the missile’s flight cancellation system – a key element required for the missile’s launch. Prior to Firefly, Markusic worked at Elon Musk ‘SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

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