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Firefly Aerospace Traces Rocket Launch Failure

According to business authorities, Firefly Aerospace’s first launch failed due to a premature engine shutdown last week. On Thursday (Sept. 2), Texas-based Firefly launched its 95-foot-tall (29-meter) Alpha rocket into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, marking its first-ever orbital test flight. The two-stage launcher began to drop around 2.5 minutes after liftoff and then exploded in a spectacular explosion.

Firefly launched an anomaly inquiry right after, and it has already made significant progress. The corporation reported the proximate cause of the failure on Sunday (Sept. 5): About 15 seconds after liftoff, one of Alpha’s four first-stage Reaver engines went down abruptly. According to a Twitter thread, the vehicle continued to climb and maintain control for a total of around 145 seconds, when the conventional first-stage burn time is about 165 seconds.

The rising-rate was slow due to the lack of push from one of the four engines, and the spacecraft struggled to retain control without the thrust vectoring of engine 2. Alpha was correct at subsonic speeds, but the three-engine thrust vector control was insufficient as it progressed into the transonic and supersonic flight, where power is most difficult, and the vehicle slid out of control. The range used the explosive Aircraft Termination System to bring the flight to a halt (FTS). The rocket did not detonate by itself.

Firefly posted to the Twitter thread that Engine 2 broke down because its primary propellant valves closed. The company is still investigating what caused the valves to complete and whether anything else unusual occurred during Thursday’s flight. According to Firefly specifications page, Alpha is an expendable rocket capable of delivering up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg) to low Earth orbit on each $15 million flight.

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