A last-second automatic abort kept a fledgling rocket on the ground at Vandenberg Space Force Base early Friday morning, and appeared to be set for another liftoff attempt Saturday.
The abort for the Firefly Aerospace rocket occurred just before 1 a.m. at Space Launch Complex-2 during a countdown where a crew member confidently declared, “Send it.”
However, at T minus 0 and after the engines ignited, a mission manager declared, “Vehicle abort. Safing the vehicle” as Alpha’s engines shut down and the rocket remained standing.
The launch window extended until 2 a.m., but the team needed to understand the glitch and make any possible fixes.
“The vehicle went into auto abort after ignition,” Firefly officials said on Twitter. “This is designed into the system to ensure safety. The team scrubbed tonight’s launch attempt, and is reviewing data to determine our next launch window.”
It was the second abort for the team. Crew members initially targeted lift off at 12:07 a.m., but another abort occurred that led to the second try. Firefly representatives never explained why the first abort occurred.
Firefly has a backup opportunity—12:01a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday –reserved for the next attempt, but it wasn’t clear if the rocket and team would be ready.
Alpha’s first countdown occurred Sept. 11, but helium pressure issues thwarted that departure. Rare rainstorms on the Central Coast also led to other delays.
Once it lifts off, this will be the Alpha rocket’s second technology-demonstration flight.
The first liftoff last September ended in failure following launch from Vandenberg.