After two delays, a young rocket will attempt to blast off from Vandenberg Space Force Base, but those hoping to see Alpha’s departure might miss some sleep.
Instead of an afternoon liftoff, Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket launch is scheduled to occur from Space Launch Complex-2 in the very early morning.
Liftoff now is planned between 12:01 a.m. and 2 a.m. Friday, according to Firefly, with a backup opportunity on Saturday morning.
Crews scrubbed the first launch countdown on Sept. 11 after helium pressure problems caused a last-minute abort.
Plans for a Sept. 12 countdown ended up getting canceled because of windy conditions.
In addition, the hopes for a Sept. 19 departure coincided with a rare heavy rainstorm, leading Firefly to delay the mission even longer. That storm ultimately dumped up to 4 inches of rain in the hills around Lompoc.
For the technology demonstration flight, the Alpha rocket will carry several small satellites.
Texas-based Firefly Aerospace has pledged the new rocket as a way to deliver small satellites into orbit economically. However, the debut launch in September 2021 ended in a fiery failure, setting the stage for the return to flight this month.
For the return to flight, Firefly will carry a few small satellites, a payload much lighter than the rocket can carry.
Another launch attempt came after NASA announced the selection of Firefly to provide launch services for the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) missions in the 500 to 1000 kg grouping utilizing its Alpha rocket.
The fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract has a five-year ordering period with a maximum total value of $300 million across all contracts.
Thirteen companies were chosen for the VADR contract, which is divided into three categories: below 500 kg, 500 to 1000 kg, and above 1000 kg.
NASA has specified multiple providers for each category but posted an intent to enter sole source negotiations with Firefly. The space agency noted that only Firefly had completed development and conducted a test launch.
“Firefly has had a long-standing relationship with NASA and is committed to providing NASA and other U.S. government entities with responsive, repeatable, reliable space transportation services,” said Jason Mello, Firefly STS president. “We are honored to be included in this award and to be one of two vehicles in this class to meet the NASA’s Launch Services Program demand for ensured access to space.”
A livestream of the countdown reportedly will start an hour before the scheduled launch time and can be found at firefly.com.