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Engine Failure Apparently Led To Aborted Rocket Flight On Central Coast

A Firefly Aerospace Alpha rocket
Firefly Aerospace
A Firefly Aerospace Alpha rocket.

Engineers say they’ve determined what led to a problem with a rocket launch from the Central Coast which ended with the craft being intentionally destroyed. One of the rocket’s four engines shut down shortly after takeoff.

It was the first ever flight for Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket, but it ended with a massive explosion.

The nearly 100 foot long rocket successfully lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base last Thursday night. But engineers say about 15 seconds into the flight, the main fuel valves shut down on one of the rocket’s four first stage engines. Without fuel, the engine just stopped.

The rocket kept flying on its other three engines, but as it hit supersonic speeds, not having all four engines burning caused it to tumble out of control.

Out of safety concerns, the launch team then blew up the rocket.

Firefly officials say they are conducting a complete investigation into what caused the shutdown. They say despite the loss of the rocket, the company considers the mission a success, because they were able to complete a successful launch and gain valuable flight data.

The Alpha Rocket is intended to provide a low cost way of putting smaller payloads into orbit.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.