Firefly Aerospace rockets into orbit with successful Alpha launch
Texan startup Firefly Aerospace has joined the growing group of orbit-capable space startups, with the successful launch of its Alpha rocket over the weekend. The mission saw a set of satellites deployed into low-Earth orbit and marks a long-awaited step forward for the fledgling launch services provider.
We first caught wind of Firefly Aerospace and its aspirations in aerospace back in 2014, when it unveiled its Alpha launch vehicle with some interesting points of difference. It was originally intended as the first orbital launcher to use methane as fuel, and featured an aerospike engine nozzle configuration designed for more efficient burns at lower altitudes.
A lot has changed for Firefly since then, and not just in terms of rocket design. The company, known then as Firefly Space Systems, was sold off and relaunched in 2017, and today’s version of the Alpha rocket relies on “tried and true, flight-proven rocket technologies." This means eschewing the aerospike design in favor of a more traditional nozzle arrangement and ditching methane for a mix of liquid oxygen and RP-1, as explained by Ars Technica.
This culminated in the company’s first ever launch attempt last September, which resulted in an anomaly two minutes after lift-off and loss of the vehicle. It took more than a year for Firefly Aerospace to return to the pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base for another attempt, a mission called Alpha Flight 2: To the Black.
The mission saw a trio of small satellites packed into the payload fairing and successfully fired into low-Earth orbit. Customers were able to confirm the signal soon after, resulting in 100% mission success, according to FireFly Aerospace.
A stream of the launch was hosted by Everyday Astronaut, and can be viewed in full below.
Source: Firefly Aerospace (Twitter)