Private Firefly rocket explodes over California after failed launch


An unmanned rocket exploded in a fireball above California a few minutes after it rose, marking an end to fire at a private company’s first launch for its “Alpha” rocket.

Firefly Aerospace, based in Austin, Texas, tested a rocket designed to carry small satellites into Earth orbit. All looked closely moments after takeoff from Vandenberg space force base on the central coast at 6:59 pm Thursday. After about two minutes of climbing, however, the 10-story tall rocket began spinning irregularly over the Pacific Ocean.

As a result of the unstable behavior, Launch Space Delta 30, a unit of U.S. space forces, “suspended” the rocket to lower any danger to the public. Video footage shows the rocket exploding into a spectacular ball. Luckily, no one was injured.

Firefly said in a statement that it was “too early to draw conclusions about the root cause” of the “anomaly.” They said they are working with the Federal Aviation Administration and Vandenberg space force base to conduct an investigation.

“While we didn’t meet all of our mission goals, we did achieve a number of them: successful ignition stages, takeoff from the pad, progression of supersonic speeds, and we found a substantial amount of flight data,” Firefly said in statement.

A rocket launched by Firefly Aerospace, the latest entrant into the new space sector, saw rise from the central California coast on Thursday, September 2, 2021.

A rocket launched by Firefly Aerospace, the latest entrant into the new space sector, saw rise from the central California coast on Thursday, September 2, 2021.

Matt Hartman / AP

Standing 95 feet tall, the Alpha two stage is designed to carry up to 2,200 pounds of load in low orbit. The company wants to be able to launch Alphas twice a month. Launch would have a starting price of $ 15 million, according to Firefly.

Firefly will have to catch up with two Long Beach, California-based companies ahead of the small satellite launch sector. Rocket Lab has placed 105 satellites in orbit with multiple launches from a site in New Zealand and is developing another launch complex in the U.S. Virgin Orbit has placed 17 satellites in space with two successful flights of its air-launched LauncherOne rocket, which is released under the wing of a modified Boeing 747.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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