Firefly Aerospace is gearing up for another go at launching its Alpha rocket, hoping that the small-lift launch vehicle makes it to orbit this time after a fiery first attempt last year.
Update 5:30 p.m. ET: Firefly scrubbed Monday’s launch attempt due to the violation of wind constraints. The next launch attempt is scheduled for September 19 or 20.
Original post follows.
The Texas-based company is aiming for an orbital launch attempt on Monday at 6 p.m. ET, and the test flight will be streamed live. You can tune in to watch the liftoff through Firefly’s website or via the feed below.
The 95-foot-tall (29-meter) rocket is set to launch from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Firefly designed Alpha to provide low-cost rides for small satellites. As part of today’s mission, dubbed “To the Black,” Alpha will be carrying two small cubesats and six picosatellites. Provided by Teachers in Space, the Serenity cubesat will gather flight data for educational purposes, while TES-15, a collaboration between NASA and San Jose State University, will test an “exo-brake” that can increase drag in order to de-orbit a satellite. Meanwhile, Libre Space Foundation’s PicoBus will deploy six picosatellites to test out communication and remote sensing technology.
The company wants to be able to launch two Alpha rockets every month, with the single-use rocket designed to carry 2,580 pounds (1,170 kg) of cargo to low Earth orbit and 1,640 pounds (745 kg) to Sun-synchronous orbit.
But first, Alpha needs to ace its test flight. The company’s first attempt at launching the rocket, on September 2, 2021, didn’t exactly go as planned. One of Alpha’s four first-stage Reaver engines shut down unexpectedly about 15 seconds in, activating the flight termination system, and the rocket exploded in a massive fireball above the Pacific Ocean. A year later, Alpha is (hopefully) ready to fly again.
Alpha’s second test flight was supposed to happen Sunday, but the rocket ran into a bit of trouble, and the team scrubbed the launch attempt due to a drop in helium pressure. But, fingers crossed, the company can finally watch Alpha fly with no explosive mishaps this time around. If all goes well, Firefly hopes to being regular Alpha launches by the end of the year.
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