Firefly Alpha: rocket explodes in its first test flight due to engine failure; see the video


Firefly is one of the aerospace companies fighting for visibility among the rise of giants like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and last Thursday (22) would be its historic day, as it would mark the first test launch of the Firefly Alpha rocket, designed to place satellites into Earth orbit.


The mission, however, turned out to be a failure. The 20 meter high and about 2 meter wide spacecraft exploded a few minutes after its launch. As it was dedicated only for launching satellites, the vehicle was unmanned.

See the video below:

The spacecraft carried Cubesat’s small 10-centimeter satellites, which were to be placed in orbit for the experimental flight. The problems started shortly after takeoff — after 15 seconds into the flight, Engine 2 stopped running. Despite this, the vehicle continued its elevation route for just over two and a half minutes.

With the absence of its subsonic engine, the module was not able to maintain its sufficient impulse vector with the three remaining transonic and supersonic engines, which generated instability and made it impossible to continue the mission.

The explosion was not caused by the malfunction of the engine. In fact, the destruction was induced by the very technicians who activated the Flight Termination System (FTS), a terminal process that deactivates the rocket in case of failure or the need to interrupt the test.

Firefly investigates the reason for the unexpected shutdown of Engine 2 and promises to publicly communicate the results of the analysis. Despite being a cause for regret, the failure of the tests is treated in a sporting way by the company, after all, it represents progress for its researches.


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