Cedar Park company’s rocket gets to supersonic speed, then explodes during test

Local

VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. (NBC News/KXAN) — A Cedar Park aerospace company’s rocket exploded shortly after takeoff Thursday night at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Firefly Aerospace said the rocket “experienced an anomaly” more than two minutes into the launch that led to an “early end of the mission.”

It was Firefly’s first-ever orbital test flight of its Alpha rocket, and while the mission came to an abrupt halt, the company said in a statement it still achieved some of the goals it set out to do.

“While we did not meet all of our mission objectives, we did achieve a number of them: successful first stage ignition, liftoff of the pad, progression to supersonic speed and we obtained a substantial amount of flight data.” the company’s statement said, in part.

Firefly said there were no injuries associated with the explosion, but did say that some of the debris that fell back to Earth in the area “should be considered unsafe.”

The rocket was carrying 203 pounds. Firefly said it’s “too early to draw conclusions as to the root cause” of the explosion.

In January 2020, a Firefly test run in Briggs — an area in Burnet County on U.S. Highway 183 — ended in a fire and evacuations. Firefly CEO Tom Markusic said it was due to a fuel leak that created a fireball, but fire suppression systems helped put it out quickly.

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