Watch Firefly Aerospace try to reach orbit for 1st time on Sept. 30

Update for 4:40 a.m. EDT on Sept. 30: Firefly aborted the Sept. 30 launch attempt just after engine ignition. Read our Alpha abort story for more information.

Firefly Aerospace will take another crack at reaching orbit on Sept. 30, and you can watch it live.

The Texas-based company plans to launch its Alpha rocket on a test mission from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sept. 30 at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT; midnight local time). You can watch the liftoff via Firefly (opens in new tab) and its livestream partner, EverydayAstronaut.com (opens in new tab); Space.com will carry that webcast as well.

This will be Alpha's second attempt to make it to orbit. The first try, which launched from Vandenberg on Sept. 2, 2021, ended in a dramatic fireball after the 95-foot-tall (29 meters) rocket suffered a major anomaly.

Video: Watch Firefly Aerospace use a rocket engine to light birthday candles

A Firefly investigation determined that one of Alpha's four first-stage Reaver engines shut down just 15 seconds into that flight. The company traced the problem to the premature closure of the engine's main propellant valves. Firefly addressed the issue and now has Alpha back on the pad.  

The rocket will be carrying satellites on the upcoming mission, as it did during last year's launch. Flying aboard Alpha this time around are two tiny cubesats — Serenity, provided by the nonprofit Teachers in Space, which will gather flight data for educational purposes; and TES-15, a collaboration between NASA and San Jose State University that will test a de-orbiting "exo-brake."

Alpha is also carrying a deployer called PicoBus that will eject a handful of even smaller "picosats" into orbit, Firefly wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).

Alpha is an expendable rocket designed to give small satellites dedicated rides to orbit, much as Rocket Lab's 59-foot-tall (18 m) Electron currently does. Alpha can loft 2,580 pounds (1,170 kilograms) to low Earth orbit at a price of $15 million per launch, according to Firefly's Alpha user's guide (opens in new tab).

Editor's note: This story was updated at 8:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 11 with the new launch target of Monday (Sept. 12). Firefly attempted to launch on Sept. 11 but scrubbed the try due to an unexpected drop in helium pressure. The story was updated again on Sept. 23 with the new launch date of Sept. 30.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.