Firefly Aerospace will need another crack at reaching orbit on Sunday (Sept. 11), and you may watch it live.
The Texas-based company plans to launch its Alpha rocket on a test mission from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sunday (Sept. 11) at 6 p.m. EDT (3 p.m. local California time; 2200 GMT). You can view the liftoff via Firefly (opens in new tab) and its own livestream partner, EverydayAstronaut.com (opens in new tab); Space.com will carry that webcast aswell, when possible.
This is Alpha’s second try to ensure it is to orbit. The initial try, which launched from Vandenberg on Sept. 2, 2021, ended in a dramatic fireball following the 95-foot-tall (29 meters) rocket suffered a significant anomaly.
A Firefly investigation determined that certain of Alpha’s four first-stage Reaver engines turn off just 15 seconds into that flight. The business traced the issue to the premature closure of the engine’s main propellant valves. Firefly addressed the problem and today has Alpha back on the pad.
The rocket will undoubtedly be carrying satellites on Sunday’s mission, since it did during last year’s launch. Flying aboard Alpha these times are two tiny cubesats Serenity, supplied by the nonprofit Teachers in Space, that may gather flight data for educational purposes; and TES-15, a collaboration between NASA and San Jose State University that may test a de-orbiting “exo-brake.”
Alpha can be carrying a deployer called PicoBus which will eject a small number of even smaller “picosats” into orbit, Firefly wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
Alpha can be an expendable rocket made to give small satellites dedicated rides to orbit, much as Rocket Lab’s 59-foot-tall (18 m) Electron currently does. Alpha can loft 2,580 pounds (1,170 kilograms) to low Earth orbit at a cost of $15 million per launch, in accordance with Firefly’s Alpha user’s guide (opens in new tab).
The Alpha launch is merely portion of the spaceflight action this weekend: SpaceX lofted another big batch of its Starlink broadband satellites on Saturday night (Sept. 10) together with the huge BlueWalker 3 test satellite, a pathfinder for AST SpaceMobile’s planned direct-to-cellphone connectivity constellation.
Mike Wall may be the writer of “ON THE MARKET (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book concerning the seek out alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).