Like any first-time rocket launch, getting flight data is more important than anything else. If you make it to orbit along the way, that’s a plus. Thursday Firefly had one of these days when their Alpha rocket lifted off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg Space Force Base but suffered a failure.
The countdown included an abort at T-8 seconds that stopped the count due to an unknown anomaly. Firefly was able to resolve the anomaly to the point that they reset the count for later in the window. The second count went smoother with the team giving the final GO for launch again. This time without an auto abort from the rocket and Alpha rose from the launch pad for the very first time.
The launch went smoothly, from what we could tell, until T+2:30 where the launch was aborted. In laymen’s terms, it blew up. In tracking footage captured by NASASpaceflight’s Jack Beyer you can see the Alpha rocket begin to flip end over end before the abort, an obvious failure somewhere in the rocket.
This was very close to the point where Firefly’s rocket went supersonic. There is unconfirmed skepticism that the rocket was underperforming. During the liftoff of Alpha, it did seem slow to reach the speed of sound but no confirmation from Firefly has been made about the source of the anomaly.
Either way, getting this far in their first flight should be taken as an achievement. Building rockets is a difficult business and challenges like these show up frequently in first launches. Congratulations to the teams at Firefly for getting this far. We look forward to seeing their next launch attempt soon.
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