This week was a big one for Firefly Aerospace. The company is a small private space firm that was trying to reach orbit using its Alpha orbital vehicle. Its first orbital attempt happened on September 2 with liftoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base. The goal was to deploy multiple payloads in a low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 300 kilometers.
The multiple payloads aboard the Alpha spacecraft include various technical and non-technical payloads, including CubeSats and DNA samples, along with images of loved ones of Firefly staffers. Unfortunately for the company, Alpha failed to reach orbit after experiencing an anomaly at approximately 19:01 PST.
Firefly announced the loss of the vehicle via a tweet confirming Alpha experienced an anomaly that resulted in the complete loss of the spacecraft and payloads. The company has promised to share more information as they work to gather additional details. However, as of writing, no additional details have been shared.
It’s certainly not uncommon for space startups to suffer repeated failures. While SpaceX has a good record of safety and success today, it had its share of failures and setbacks early in its operations. In February of this year, NASA awarded Firefly Aerospace $93.3 million to deliver ten scientific investigations and technology demonstrations to the moon by 2023.
The technology would be placed in a basin on the lunar surface called Mare Crisium. Firefly is also building a lunar lander called Blue Ghost. The lander will be delivered to the lunar surface by SpaceX. The Blue Ghost, which will have the ten previously mentioned payloads onboard, will be delivered to the moon by a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX was chosen to deliver the lander because the Falcon 9 vehicle has the required performance to deliver the over 150 kilograms payload.