Space company’s Firefly Alpha rocket explodes over California

Space company's Firefly Alpha rocket explodes over California

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket takes off from SLC-2 at Vandenberg Space Force Base on September 2, 2021.

Andrew Evers | CNBC

Space company Firefly unveiled a cloudless Alpha rocket off the coast of California on Thursday evening.

The Alpha rocket flew west over the Pacific Ocean from the SLC-2 complex at Space Force Base Vandenberg.

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket takes off from Vandenberg Space Force base on September 2, 2021.

Andrew Evers | CNBC

But, about two minutes and 30 seconds after the start of the flight, the rocket encountered an anomaly and began to flip, before terminating and exploding in midair.

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket flight termination system explodes after launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base on September 2, 2021.

Andrew Evers | CNBC

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket explodes in a fireball in the skies over California after launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base on September 2, 2021.

Andrew Evers | CNBC

The company’s first Alpha rocket exploded during its attempted orbital launch on September 2, 2021.

Firefly Aerospace

Vandenberg’s Delta 30 space launch unit confirmed in a press release that this triggered the Alpha rocket’s flight termination system, causing the explosion.

“A team of investigators will be convened to determine the cause of the failure,” Space Launch Delta 30 said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating the launch accident. The agency told CNBC in a statement that there were “no public reports of loss or damage to property” but “the FAA is aware of reports of possible debris” falling to the ground.

“Firefly’s Alpha rocket is grounded until the FAA approves a final crash investigation report or until issues related to the crash affect public safety,” the agency said. .

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

Andrew Evers | CNBC

Firefly was trying to reach orbit on the company’s first launch, which would have been a rare feat for a private rocket maker. The first orbital launch attempts by other private rocket makers SpaceX, Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and Astra each suffered a series of failures, with all three of the former companies reaching orbit in later attempts.

The company said in a statement that its Alpha test flight had met “several” mission objectives, including: firing the booster, take-off, supersonic speeds and collected “a substantial amount of flight data.”

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