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Launch of the US-Ukrainian FireFly Alpha: the rocket exploded two minutes after the launch

Explosion of the US-Ukrainian Alpha rocket on September 3, 2021. Photo: NASA / Jack Beyer

Explosion of the US-Ukrainian Alpha rocket on September 3, 2021. Photo: NASA / Jack Beyer

The Ukrainian-American private company Firefly Aerospace held the first launch of the FireFly Alpha light launch vehicle. The launch was broadcasted on YouTube.

The launch occurred on September 3 at 4:59 am Kyiv time from the Vandenberg base of the US Space Forces in California. The rocket launched successfully, but there were failures in the work of the first stage, so it was unable to enter into orbit. Approximately two minutes after launch, an off-normal situation led to the explosion of the rocket, due to which it was unable to put the load into orbit.

Firefly Aerospace stated on Twitter that they plan to investigate and determine the exact cause of the accident.

Let us add that on research equipment and tiny satellites of the DREAM mission were on board the rocket: BSS1, CRESST DREAM COMET, Firefly Capsule 1, PICOBUS (six miniature PocketQubes satellites), Hiapo, NPS-CENETIX-Orbital 1, Spinnaker3, and TIS Serenity.


Firefly Aerospace (formerly Firefly Space Systems) is a private aerospace company headquartered in Austin (Texas, USA). The company develops light launch vehicles for launching cargo into space. In 2017, the company was bought by Ukrainian entrepreneur Maxim Polyakov, in particular his company EOS Launcher, for $75 million. Following the merger with the latter, the company was renamed Firefly Aerospace, and part of its production facilities and development were moved to Ukrainian Dnipro.

As for the rocket, the FireFly Alpha is a two-stage ultralight rocket that can launch a payload of up to 1,000 kg into low-earth orbit and up to 600 kg into sun-synchronous orbit. The company started developing it in 2017.


Context. Firefly Aerospace previously signed a contract with SpaceX to deliver the landing module Blue Ghost to the Moon in 2023.

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