Space company Firefly loses rocket in first launch explosion

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Space company Firefly launched its so-called Alpha rocket for the first time on Thursday evening, but it blew up just a couple minutes into the flight due to an “anomaly.”

Video of the test flight shows the non-crewed rocket cradling toward space for more than two minutes after its successful blast-off.

Then the rocket hit supersonic speed, according to the company’s mission control audio, meaning it passed the speed of sound.

Moments later, it exploded.

“Alpha experienced an anomaly during first stage ascent that resulted in the loss of the vehicle. As we gather more information, additional details will be provided,” the privately held Austin, Texas-based company said in a tweet.

The 95-feet tall rocket launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California a little before 10 p.m. ET.

Firefly Aerospace is reportedly valued at over $1 billion.
Firefly Aerospace is reportedly valued at over $1 billion.
Firefly Aerospace
Firefly Aerospace's first Alpha rocket lifts off minutes before suffering a catastrophic anomaly.
Firefly Aerospace’s unsuccessful rocket was not manned by a live crew.
REUTERS/Gene Blevins

It carried nearly a dozen technical payloads and was intended to reach low Earth orbit.

Firefly, which is reportedly valued at more than $1 billion, was founded in 2014 and went bankrupt in 2017 after a key investor dropped out. The privately held company re-emerged as Firefly Aerospace later that year.

The company hopes to capture a chunk of the rapidly growing small-satellite launch market with its Alpha rocket. The spacecraft is designed to deliver up to 2,200 pounds of payload to low Earth orbit in missions that cost $15 million each, the company says.

There’s major competition in the space, including from Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, Relativity Space and Astra Space, which recently went public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

In addition to its Alpha rocket, Firefly has said it plans to build a larger rocket called Beta.



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