Firefly Rocket Shuts Down After Ignition as Launch Attempt Aborted

Second Firefly Alpha rocket on the launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. — Firefly Aerospace’s attempt to launch its Alpha rocket fizzled as the booster’s first stage engines shut down immediately after ignition early Friday morning.

“The vehicle went into auto abort after ignition. This is designed into the system to ensure safety. The team scrubbed tonight’s launch attempt and is reviewing data to determine our next launch window,” the company tweeted after the abort at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Firefly has provided no further details on the cause of the abort, nor did has it indicate when it might make another launch attempt. Firefly has a two-hour launch window starting at midnight on Saturday.

Alpha is carrying eight small satellites and a capsule with postcards on a rideshare flight.

Firefly Alpha Launch No. 2 Payloads

TechEdSat-15 (TES-15)CubeSatNASA Ames/San Jose State UniversityTechnology demonstration
TIS SerenityCubeSatTeachers in Space, Inc.Education
PicoBusPocketQubeLibre Space FoundationPocketQube deployer
FOSSASAT-1BPocketQubeFOSSA SystemsTechnology demonstration
GENESIS-LPocketQubeAMSAT-EAAmateur radio
GENESIS-NPocketQubeAMSAT-EAAmateur radio
QUBIK-1PocketQubeLibre Space FoundationTechnology demonstration
QUBIK-2PocketQubeLibre Space FoundationTechnology demonstration
Firefly capsuleCapsuleFirefly Aerospace128 postcards
Source: Wikipedia

Firefly aborted a launch attempt in the final minute on Sept. 11 due to a drop in helium pressure in Alpha’s second stage. Bad weather further delayed the launch until today.

Firefly is hoping the second launch of its Alpha booster is the charm. The first attempt failed in September 2021 when a first-stage engine shut down after liftoff from Vandenberg.

Firefly has said Alpha will be capable of launching 1,170 kg (2,579 lb) to a 200-km (124-mile) high low-Earth orbit (LEO) or 745 kg (1,642 lb) to a 500-km (311-mile) high sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). The company plans to upgrade the booster’s capacity to 1,375 kg (3,031 lb) to LEO and 860 kg (1,896 lb) to SSO in June 2023.