Science

Watch as Firefly Aerospace tries for the first time into orbit on Sunday

Firefly Aerospace will make another attempt at orbit on Sunday (September 11) and you can watch it live.

The Texas-based company plans to launch its Alpha rocket test mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Sunday (September 11) at 6:00 pm EST (3:00 pm local California time; 10:00 pm GMT). You can watch the launch via Firefly (will open in a new tab) and its livestream partner EverydayAstronaut.com (will open in a new tab); Space.com will also be streaming this webcast if possible.

This will be Alpha’s second attempt at orbit. The first attempt, launched from Vandenberg on September 2, 2021, ended in a dramatic fireball after the 95-foot-tall (29-metre) rocket collided with a severe anomaly.

Video: Watch Firefly Aerospace use a rocket engine to light birthday candles

Firefly’s investigation determined that one of the four Alpha first stage Reaver engines failed just 15 seconds into that flight. The company attributed the problem to premature closing of the engine’s main fuel valves. Firefly solved this problem and now Alpha is back on the court.

The rocket will carry satellites during Sunday’s mission, as it did during last year’s launch. This time Alpha is flying two tiny cubesats: the Serenity, provided by the non-profit organization Teachers in Space, which will collect flight data for educational purposes; and TES-15, a joint effort between NASA and San Jose State University that will test “exobrake” deorbiting.

Alpha also carries a paratrooper called the PicoBus, which will launch several even smaller “picosats” into orbit, as Firefly wrote in the mission description. (will open in a new tab).

Alpha is a disposable rocket designed to carry small satellites into orbit, as Rocket Lab’s 59-foot-tall (18 m) Electron currently does. The Alpha can lift 2,580 pounds (1,170 kg) into low Earth orbit at a cost of $15 million per launch, according to the Firefly Alpha user manual. (will open in a new tab).

The Alpha launch is just part of spaceflight this weekend: SpaceX lifted another large batch of its broadband Starlink satellites on Saturday night (September 10) along with the huge BlueWalker 3 test satellite, the trailblazer for SpaceMobile’s planned AST direct flight. constellation mobile phone connection.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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