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“Anomaly” destroys FireFly’s inaugural rocket launch at Vandenberg SFB

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Paul Dieckman
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Paul Dieckman
Firefly rocket explosion John Moreno
John Moreno
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Georgina Garcia May
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Reed Harmon/KEYT

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. - FireFly Aerospace confirmed on Twitter that its Alpha rocket experienced an anomaly during the first stage ascent, resulting in a dramatic, mid-air explosion and the loss of the vehicle.

The Alpha rocket was scheduled to take off from Vandenberg Space Force Base as the FireFly's first orbital rocket launch around 6 p.m. on Thursday, however the launch was aborted.

About one hour later, crews were ready to try for the launch again, but shortly after the rocket ascended into the atmosphere an explosion could be seen in the sky, ending its mission.

A number of NewsChannel viewers reported seeing the mid-air explosion that occurred shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday night.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

Video of the launch and explosion were streamed live on YouTube here. Closeup shots show the rocket flying in a loop before blasting into a cloud of smoke.

Vandenberg released a warning later Thursday night advising residents to watch out for debris falling from the sky.

Investigators said if anyone finds debris from the rocket they should consider it unsafe and stay at least 50 feet away from it.

If you happen to find a piece of the rocket, you are urged to contact Firefly Aerospace Inc. at 805-605-2734.

All recreational facilities at Vandenberg SFB, including beaches on-base that were closed for the launch will remain closed until further notice due to the ongoing investigation.

The following information is according to the Firefly Aerospace website:

Firefly Alpha is designed to address the needs of the burgeoning small–satellite market. At a dedicated mission price of $15M, Alpha combines the highest payload performance with the lowest cost per kilogram to orbit in its vehicle class. Capable of delivering 1 metric ton to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 630 kg to the highly desirable 500 km Sun–Synchronous Orbit (SSO), Alpha will provide launch options for both full vehicle and ride share customers.

Alpha will launch twice per month, a launch cadence that will enable customers to fly according to their schedule and to the orbit they desire.

This is a developing story. We have a crew on scene and will bring you more information as it comes into our newsroom.

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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Jessica Brest

Jessica Brest is a digital journalist and assignment editor for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Jessica, click here.

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