Space Force blows up malfunctioning Firefly rocket during its first flight

mongeese

Posts: 533   +111
Staff member
In a nutshell: Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket lifted off on its inaugural flight on Thursday evening, arcing over the California coast towards the Pacific. But just after reaching supersonic speeds, it began flipping and spinning and was terminated remotely for safety.

The Alpha rocket is (or was) a two-stage, 29-meter tall small-satellite delivery system designed to deliver a 1,000 kg payload to low earth orbit, or 630 kg to sun-synchronous orbit. Firefly plan to fly an Alpha rocket twice a month at a per-launch price of $15 million.

Thursday’s flight, posthumously referred to as a test flight, began slightly north of Los Angeles at the Vandenberg Space Force Base at 6:59 pm local time. The rocket did have some working satellites aboard, but only for test purposes. It lifted off without a hitch.

Footage shows that about two minutes into the Alpha’s flight, the rocket slowly starts tipping downwards. It then flips, which would’ve put enormous pressure on its body. You can see some debris break off as flames begin to encapsulate the rocket’s boosters.

After another violent rotation, the rocket explodes spectacularly.

The Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 unit confirmed that the explosion was the intended result of the in-flight termination system, which they activated at 7:01 pm. The explosion eliminated the risk of the out-of-control Alpha crashing into a populated area.

Some debris can be spotted escaping the explosion, but it’s reported to have fallen into the ocean. There weren’t any injuries.

Firefly reflected on the flight positively in their press release: "Firefly’s First Test Flight Lasts More Than Two Minutes, With Successful Liftoff And Progression To Supersonic Speed." I don’t think everyone would agree that liftoff and lasting two minutes qualifies as success, but I’m glad that Firefly got its needs met.

They say that their engineers are already combing through the telemetry gathered during the flight to work out what went wrong. They’re being joined by teams from the Vandenberg Space Force Base and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Until a cause can be determined, the Alpha model is sadly grounded -- although I doubt Firefly has a working spare anyhow.

Permalink to story.

 

VitalyT

Posts: 6,028   +6,392
kaboom2.png
 

captaincranky

Posts: 17,660   +6,447
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ..... wonder who will take the blame for that one!
Most likely Musk and Trump. Musk for grabbing up all the R & D money, and Trump for creating the "Space Force" to begin with.

Off hand it looks like the CG was too far forward, and somebody forgot to tighten the blots on a thrust vectoring nozzle or two.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,356   +7,164
The one thing I thought a big strange was just how long they let it fly before terminating it ..... NASA would kill them the second it went off flight path ...... guess the benefit of a contractor is a better, longer show!!!
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,976   +2,306
TechSpot Elite
How about a compromise? Suppose they change the name to "Fire Mayfly", and we hope for the best?

And face it, aren't the explosions better than the launches that go off as planned?

100%. The only reason to watch car races that just go around the same loop in a stadium 200 times is for the crashes.

Makes me wonder if the cars can even turn the other direction. Maybe they go 'round the other way on odd weekends to wear the steering and suspension evenly.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 17,660   +6,447
100%. The only reason to watch car races that just go around the same loop in a stadium 200 times is for the crashes.

Makes me wonder if the cars can even turn the other direction. Maybe they go 'round the other way on odd weekends to wear the steering and suspension evenly.
I'm not certain but I think the suspension, and possibly the tires are asymmetrically configured to counteract the centrifugal force generated toward the outer wall of the track.

Short answer, they'll likely go the other way, but a lot less efficiently.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,859   +2,211
TechSpot Elite
I'm not certain but I think the suspension, and possibly the tires are asymmetrically configured to counteract the centrifugal force generated toward the outer wall of the track.

Short answer, they'll likely go the other way, but a lot less efficiently.
Q:How do you escape a police car driven by cops trained on a NASCAR track?
A:Turn right.