Firefly Aerospace’s debut launch final week failed due to a untimely engine shutdown, firm representatives have decided.
Texas-based Firefly carried out its first-ever orbital take a look at flight on Thursday (Sept. 2), sending its 95-foot-tall (29 meters) Alpha rocket skyward from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. About 2.5 minutes after liftoff, the two-stage launcher started to tumble, and shortly thereafter it exploded in a dramatic fireball.
Firefly rapidly initiated an anomaly investigation, which has made substantial progress already. On Sunday (Sept. 5), the corporate introduced the proximate explanation for the failure: One of Alpha’s 4 first-stage Reaver engines shut down unexpectedly about 15 seconds after liftoff.
“The vehicle continued to climb and maintain control for a total of about 145 seconds, whereas nominal first-stage burn duration is about 165 seconds. However, due to missing the thrust of 1 of 4 engines, the climb rate was slow, and the vehicle was challenged to maintain control without the thrust vectoring of engine 2,” Alpha representatives wrote in a Twitter thread on Sunday.
“Alpha was able to compensate at subsonic speeds, but as it moved through transonic and into supersonic flight, where control is most challenging, the three-engine thrust vector control was insufficient and the vehicle tumbled out of control. The range terminated the flight using the explosive Flight Termination System (FTS). The rocket did not explode on its own,” they added.
Engine 2 shut down as a result of its major propellant valves closed, Firefly added within the Twitter thread. The firm remains to be working to grasp what triggered the valves to shut, and to find out if the rest anomalous occurred throughout Thursday’s flight.
“We will report [the] root cause of the anomaly at the end of the investigation. In collaboration with the FAA and our partners at Space Launch Delta 30, we’ll return to conduct Alpha Flight 2 as soon as possible,” Firefly wrote within the Twitter thread, referring to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Vandenberg-based Space Force unit that oversees launches from the West Coast.
Alpha is an expendable rocket designed to ship as much as 2,200 kilos (1,000 kg) to low Earth orbit on every $15 million mission, in response to Firefly’s specifications page. On Thursday, the rocket took off with a 203-pound (92 kg) payload known as DREAM (“Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission”), which consisted of memorabilia contributed by colleges and different establishments, in addition to a variety of tiny satellites.
Alpha additionally carried elements of the space tug that Firefly is engaged on, known as the Space Utility Vehicle, to present them an in-space take a look at, according to SpaceNews.
Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e book concerning the seek for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.