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Firefly Alpha failure caused by uneventful engine shutdown

Image: Engine test (Firefly)

Edinburgh, 7 September 2021. – Investigation uncovered that Firefly Aerospace’s first Alpha rocket had failed due to the shutting down of one of its first-stage engines, Firefly said.

The launch took place at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on 2nd September. The engine shut down just a few seconds after lift-off making the rocket tumble out of control two and a half minutes into the flight. Range operator Space Launch Delta 30 then destroyed the rocket with its flight termination system.

Firefly said that one of the four Reaver engines shut down 15 seconds into the flight. The shutdown was uneventful as the engine did not fail but the propellant main valves simply closed. The rocket continued ascension with reduced thrust, using the remaining three engines. Because of this, the vehicle only reached supersonic stage after 2 minutes and 20 seconds instead of the anticipated 67 seconds.

The launch vehicle’s payload fairing broke off during the gyrations but it remained otherwise intact until the flight termination system activated. Firefly is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Space Launch Delta 30 to conduct the second Alpha flight as soon as possible.

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