The Firefly rocket exploded today as the United States’ latest attempt to put a rocket in Earth’s orbit failed. Bursting into flames in mid-air after launching from the Vandenberg Space Force Base north of Los Angeles, Ca., the Firefly rocket squandered the Texas startup’s dream of beating out its competitors in the space race.
The rocket, which seemed to have a smooth takeoff, started to cartwheel once it hit supersonic speeds, forcing U.S. Space Force officials to call an emergency abort and destroy the aircraft. According to CNN, no one was harmed in the launch’s failure.
“Today we conducted the first-ever test flight of our Alpha rocket,” Firefly wrote in a statement on Twitter following the launch. “While we did not meet all of our mission objects, we did achieve a number of them: successful first stage ignition, liftoff the pad, progression to supersonic speed, and we obtained a substantial amount of flight data.”
“At Firefly, our goal is to always look out for the safety of our employees, partners, and community,” the statement read. “We are happy to report that there were no injuries associated with the anomaly.”
The Firefly rocket company will lead an investigation into the root cause of the launch’s failure, but said that it was too early to draw any conclusions.
“Prior to entering the countdown, the Range cleared the pad and all surrounding areas to minimize risk to Firefly employees, base staff, and the general public,” the company wrote on Twitter. “We are continuing to work with the Range, following all safety protocols.”
The Firefly rocket stood over 10 stories tall, according to The Verge, and was designed to send private satellites to orbit for $15 million. Named “Alpha,” the Firefly rocket had been in development for over a decade prior to its failed launch.
Encouraging the rocket company on Twitter, Jeff Bezos’ rocket ship company Blue Origin urged Firefly to “keep going,” adding that they had an “impressive first step and a lot accomplished.”
“Thank you!” Firefly Aerospace responded. “We appreciate the incredible support from the entire space community!”
The Amazon founder recently went up in a short journey to space in his Blue Origin rocket, the New Shepherd, which had a successful 10-minute and 10-seconds launch in July. “Best day ever!” he said after the launch.”
“We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry and move it into space,” Bezos declared. “It’s going to take decades and decades to achieve, but you have to start, and big things start with small steps. That’s what this sub-orbital tourism mission allows us to do, it allows us to practice over and over.”
Bezos argued that only by going into space could we, “keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is.”
Firefly and Blue Origin are just two of the commercial rocket companies in the competitive space race, however, as SpaceX and Virgin Orbit have also attempted launches in 2021.
Owned by Tesla founder Elon Musk, Space X has another launch planned for Oct. 31, while Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit recently sent a rocket up for a brief period in July with only minor complications.
Filing for bankruptcy, Firefly was able to find new financial backing from private investors to get the launch together. If successful, the rocket company would have been just the third U.S. company to send a rocket into orbit. Branson’s Virgin Orbit and New Zealand’s Rocket Lab remain the only two such successes.
“Congratulations to the Firefly team,” Peter Beck of Rocket Lab wrote on Twitter. “Lots of good data gathered today.”
It is unknown when Firefly will be able to launch another rocket after today’s exploded.