The Firefly Aerospace inaugural orbital launch ended in an anomaly that led to the loss of the vehicle just after reaching max q, which is when the spacecraft experiences the most aerodynamic stress just before leaving the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Austin, Texas-based company, which was founded in 2014 and survived bankruptcy to emerge as Firefly Aerospace, sent its Alpha rocket to the Californian Vandenberg Space Force launch pad with payloads with the intended destination of low Earth orbit.
The goal was to test components of the company’s anticipated Space Utility Vehicle (SUV), which is a space tug designed to deliver payloads to a variety of orbits using efficient solar-electric propulsion while also carrying a Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission, or “DREAM,” payload comprised of mementoes submitted by schools and other educational institutions.
Liftoff went as planned, and did fairly well during the initial portion of the launch, but ultimately resulted in an explosion and total loss of the vehicle before it reached space. It’s unclear what caused the anomaly at this time.
Firefly is currently working on a bigger rocket named Beta while also developing a robotic lunar lander named Blue Ghost that is scheduled to deliver payloads to the moon for NASA by 2023. The company also plans on building a space plane which would be known as Gamma.
Space is hard, and it’s back to the drawing board as this was a tough loss for Firefly Aerospace.