Alpha adds exploding rockets to the count and brings out a prototype space sail • The Register


Video The sudden and explosive end of Firefly Aerospace’s first test flight of its Alpha rocket completed a triple of doom for rocket fans this week.

The Alpha, which Firefly touted as being able to lift 1,000 kg in low earth orbit (LEO), finally left its cushion at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 01:59 UTC on September 3, only to tumble and explode around two-and-a-half minutes after the booster’s flight begins.

Observers of the launch had the pleasure of seeing the rocket rock dangerously before exploding at the end of the trip. You can watch the whole thing below:

Youtube video

The failure appears to have occurred when the vehicle reached supersonic speeds. In a declaration, Firefly Aerospace noted that it was successful in achieving some of its goals: turning on the engines, exiting the pad, and “going into supersonic gear”.

Suddenly transforming into a fireball was, unsurprisingly, not on the wish list.

Attached to the rocket was a gadget developed by Purdue University dubbed Spinnaker3, which was supposed to deploy a prototype drag sail into space as part of an experiment that could have helped clear less debris into orbit. . The aircraft was destroyed in the explosion.

David Spencer, who worked on the Spinnaker3 project as an assistant associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue, said The register:

The Alpha is a two-story vehicle. The first stage is powered by four Reaver 1 engines, and the second by a single Lightning 1 power plant. Firefly plans two launches per month. Its tracking rocket, the Beta, is expected to send up to 8,000 kg in LEO.

Firefly has yet to draw any conclusions as to the root cause of what it delicately called “the anomaly.”

“Our engineers are currently scanning thousands of ground and flight systems telemetry lines,” he said, “to better understand what happened”.

To be fair, this is the first attempt at theft by Firefly. Earlier this week, a regular with launch anomalies, the American Astra, demonstrated the intelligence of its guidance controller with an impressive lateral slip of its thruster after an engine gave way at launch.

And then there was the mad rush of Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which caught the attention of U.S. regulators as it turned out that the rocket plane deviated from course during its descent.

The launch of Alpha had been delayed due to an aborted countdown. However, this issue was resolved and take-off took place. Firefly said there were no injuries from the subsequent failure. ®


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