Firefly Aerospace announced that a test launch of its privately produced Alpha small satellite launcher from California early on Saturday morning was a “100% mission success,” adding the company to the expanding list of commercial businesses that have successfully launched a rocket into orbit.
The Firefly Alpha rocket underwent its second test flight on Saturday from Vandenberg Space Force Base, following a mission in September that was cut short due to the early shutdown of the main engine, which led to the rocket spinning out of control. After the Alpha rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 2-West at Vandenberg at 12:01 a.m. PDT on Saturday, no such issues materialized (3:01 a.m. EDT; 0701 GMT).
The Alpha rocket is the biggest liquid-fueled launcher made entirely of carbon fiber to ever launch into orbit. The size of Firefly’s rocket, which can carry greater payloads than Rocket Lab’s Electron or Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, it believes sets it apart from other potential launch providers in the smallsat launch market, and aims to sell a dedicated Alpha launch for $15 million each flight.
Additionally, Firefly and NASA are working together to create a robotic lunar lander that will carry science payloads to the moon.