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According to Firefly, alpha launch was successful, despite payload reentriesYash Ranjan10/11/202215
Although its payloads were deposited in a lower orbit than intended and reentered the atmosphere several days later, Firefly Aerospace claims that its Alpha launch at the beginning of this month was a success. Following a first-stage engine failure on the vehicle's debut launch 13 months earlier, the second flight of the Alpha rocket launched on Oct. 1 from the Californian space base Vandenberg. The corporation deemed the launch a success when Alpha's upper stage successfully released its cargo and entered orbit. Teachers in Space (TIS)-Serenity, a 3U NASA technology demonstration CubeSat, TechEdSat-15, and PicoBus, a deployer from the Libre Space Foundation carrying five PocketQube picosatellites, were the three satellite payloads carried by the launch. The Alpha upper stage was one of the five items the U.S. Space Force ultimately cataloged from the launch, and two of the other four were provisionally identified as TIS-Serenity and TechEdSat-15. The satellites, however, looked to be in lower orbits than anticipated. The satellites would be placed in a 300-kilometer orbit following the upper stage's circularization burn, according to the press kit provided by Firefly in advance of the launch. But according to Space Force tracking information, the objects were initially in orbits with a 275-kilometer apogee and a perigee of roughly 220 kilometers. The payloads experienced a quick decay due to those orbits. Three of the objects were reentered by October 5 according to the Space Force's Space-Track database, and the fourth object, the Alpha upper stage, reentered on October 7. According to Space-Track, only the payload designated as "Object A," which was once known as TIS-Serenity, is still in orbit; nevertheless, other sources show it as having also reentered. This has given rise to the assumption that there was a launch issue. The launch was deemed a failure on October 6 according to Teradata, a company owned by Slingshot Aerospace that manages space traffic, because the seven satellites on board are expected to live shorter lives than they were intended to. But Firefly emphasized that the launch was a success. When SpaceNews asked the corporation about the trip, it responded, "First stage and second stage performance was in-line with our flight 2 requirements and consequently successful." Onboard footage appeared to show the nozzle of the upper stage engine almost hitting the interstage, which sparked speculation about a potential stage separation issue shortly after the launch. However, Firefly claimed that stage separation did not provide any problems. Stage separation relative motion remained within the parameters of the vehicle and was consistent with component-level qualification, making this test flight successful. The corporation went on to say that, omitting the circularization burn indicated in the press package, "our major objective for the Alpha FLTA002 mission was to establish a predefined elliptical orbit following the second stage burn, which was 100% successful." Although we are still reviewing the data, we are encouraged by our initial findings, which indicate that our future mission will only require very minimal adjustments. The deorbiting of TechEdSat-15 was confirmed by NASA spokesperson Rachel Hoover on October 7. She did, however, note that less than ten days had been anticipated for the mission of the spacecraft. TechEdSat-15's main objective was to test an "exo-brake," a drag mechanism that helps satellites deorbit. To enable more exact targeting of satellite reentries, the exo-brake is made to function at higher temperatures than previous drag devices. However, due to the spacecraft's low orbit, some people questioned whether the exo-brake could be tested. According to Hoover, TechEdSat-15 was deployed to an orbit that enabled the mission to meet its goals. The team is currently reviewing the flight data to examine how well the most recent edition of its exo-brake technology performs.