Firefly’s Alpha rocket reaches orbit on second launch

KIHEI, Hawaii — Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha launch vehicle reached orbit on its second launch Oct. 1, more than a year after the vehicle’s first launch failed.

The Alpha rocket launched from Spaceport 2 at Vandenberg Space Force Base at 3:01 a.m. ET. Nearly eight minutes later, the rocket’s upper stage entered orbit. After a cyclic burn, the superior deployed its payload, and Firefly declared “100%” success. However, before this success, Firefly made some launch attempts and all the attempts eventually failed due to some glitches. Firefly firstly tried to launch Alpha about three weeks earlier, on Sept. 11.Unfortunately, Alpha’s controller stopped the countdown one minute before the scheduled launch. In this case, they had to cancel this launch due to this problem. Later, the Firefly indicated that the stop of the controller countdown was resulted from the reduced nitrogen supply to pressurize the rocket’s second stage tanks. The second launch attempt was delayed because of the inappropriate weather, and Firefly decided to schedule another date for a third launch attempt. At this time, the rocket engine ignited briefly and then went out. 

The Firefly later figured out that the rocket’s engine went into automatic abort when the engine fired. The first Alpha launching attempt 13 months ago was failed because of the shut-down of one of the four engines. After the examination, the Firefly declared that this failure was due to the electrical connection problem, and now they have already solved this problem and improved the manufacturing process. This amelioration guaranteed the second launch and Firefly believed that their products would be much better after this enhancement. Finally, the Firefly launched second Alpha successfully and this success earned high recognition for them.