The Firefly Aerospace company of Ukrainian Max Polyakov tried to launch the Alpha launch vehicle into space.
The launch took place on September 3 at 4:00 Kyiv time from the Vandenberg base of the US space forces in California. However, at first, the countdown suddenly stopped, the engineers tried to fire the rocket again at 4:59 am, but in the third minute after the launch, the rocket exploded.
We will tell you what anomaly made the engineers detonate the rocket, what Alpha had to do in space and what is known about the Firefly Aerospace and the Ukrainian competitor of Elon Mask Maxym Polyakov.
Something went wrong
The Alpha rocket was first launched, but the company reported an "anomaly" in the first phase during its ascent. The broadcast showed how the rocket exploded in the sky, the video can be watched here:
This happened when the carrier reached the point maxQ on the trajectory, just before the moment of separation of the steps. Subsequently, the company reported that the Alpha flight was interrupted by engineers from the station in accordance with safety protocols, that is, the rocket did not explode on its own as a result of malfunctions. This happened after fixing the deviation in the flight path.
However, one should not immediately understand the explosion as a failure: this was the first launch of the rocket, it had not been tested before. As usual, the first attempts are very rarely broadcast online, as they are unsuccessful for most companies. The plans to get the luggage into orbit were called "crazy" on the first try.
It can be considered a success that the rocket successfully reached the maxQ point on the first attempt (the most difficult stage, during which the rocket experiences maximum dynamic stress during launch and ascent).
"We did not achieve all of the mission objectives, but we did achieve some of them: successful launch of the first stage engines, takeoff from the launch pad, transition to supersonic speed, and also received a significant amount of flight data," Firefly Aerospace said.
Meanwhile, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has already joked about the explosion on Twitter:
What the Alpha launch vehicle was supposed to do in space
The Alpha rocket is a two-stage ultralight rocket capable of delivering baggage weighing up to 1,000 kilograms into low-earth orbit. At the same time, Firefly Alpha can launch up to 630 kilograms of cargo into a sun-synchronous orbit.
Alpha is designed for commercial launches of small satellites and has the lowest shipping cost per kilogram of its class. One Alpha launch will cost $ 15 million.
According to the plan, the Alpha rocket was supposed to deliver 92 kilograms of payload into space. So, the rocket was supposed to deliver a special device into orbit. The rocket also carried a collection of memorabilia sent by schools and other educational institutions, as well as a number of tiny satellites.
The company of the Ukrainian businessman
How did Ukrainian Max Polyakov manage to become a competitor to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in the field of new space? Let's start with his dossier: he was born in Zaporizhya into a family of engineers from the local branch of the Khartron enterprise. His father developed a missile guidance system. In 2001 Polyakov founded his first company, one of the first outsourcing firms in Ukraine with clients in the USA and Europe. In 2003 Polyakov moved to Edinburgh and founded HitDynamics, a few months later the American Hitwise bought HitDynamics for $ 6 million.
In 2017, Polyakov's company bought the American space startup Firefly Space Systems of engineer Tom Markusic, who previously worked at Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX. The company is now developing innovative launch vehicles for small satellites.
The main production of units is concentrated in the state of Texas, but the equipment is partially developed in Ukraine. Part of the production facilities was transferred to the city of Dnipro. There is now a research center equipped with the largest industrial 3D printer in Ukraine for metal printing. The company also has offices in Washington DC and Tokyo.
This year, the Ukrainian company received a $ 93.3 million contract from NASA for the delivery of ten scientific and technical devices per month. Firefly Aerospace is responsible for comprehensive delivery services, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon, as well as some operations within missions.