VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE (CBSLA) — The engine for a test rocket that exploded just after it successfully launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base simply shut down, causing the rocket to lose control, Firefly Aerospace said in a statement.
Firefly Aerospace's first test flight of its Alpha rocket ended with an explosion over the Pacific Ocean just two minutes and 30 seconds after it launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sept. 2. And while the rocket did not make it to orbit, Firefly Aerospace says the launch gave them a "wealth of flight data" that will increase its chances of reaching orbit on a second flight.
"In short, we had a very successful first flight," the company said.
The Texas-based aerospace company says the vehicle carrying the Alpha rocket cleared its pad correctly and all went as predicted when it came to speed and thrust. But 15 seconds into the flight, the engine 2 of its four Reaver engines shut down. Firefly emphasized the engine did not fail, but "simply closed and thrust terminated from engine 2."
The rocket continued to climb another 145 seconds, but without engine 2, it could not maintain its climb and tumbled out of control.
"The range terminated the flight using the explosive Flight Termination System (FTS)," Firefly Aerospace said. "The rocket did not explode on its own."
The company says they are investigating the launch to understand why engine 2 shut down early, and plan to conduct a second Alpha flight as soon as possible.
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