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Firefly's Alpha Rocket Explodes!

Hello fellow space enthusiasts! Welcome to Norminal News! Happy [late] labor day! Now, my last blog post was about Firefly's Alpha rocket. Sadly, that rocket did not make it into space, but the reason it did not is very interesting.

The Firefly rocket is powered by the Reaver engine, four of them to be exact. If you read my last post (which you should), you would know about thrust--to--weight ratios (TWR). The TWR tells you how much thrust you have versus how much you weigh. If Alpha loses one of its engines on launch, it will not be able to take off, and the rest of the engines would shut down, resulting in an abort. If the rocket takes off with no problems, it will go up. It did until about 15 seconds into launch when a puff of flame can be seen in the engine plume. This could be multiple things, but according to Firefly's Twitter, the engine shut down, not because of a failure, but because the computer wanted the fuel valve to close for no apparent reason. The engine then produced no thrust and the rocket started slowing down. Thankfully, as the engines ran, fuel drained out of the rocket fast enough so that it started to go up, but not fast enough. Alpha has a single-axis gimbal, meaning the engines can only go in a certain direction. If an engine loses thrust, it is much harder to control and if two engines lose thrust it is impossible to control all three axes of motion. As this happened, you can hear a callout in the livestream, "not yet supersonic" meaning the rocket is not past Mach 1 when they expected. As soon as the rocket becomes supersonic you can see it tip, and you can see debris fall off, probably the fairing and the payload. Shortly after, the gimbals overcorrect the tipping, and the Flight Termination System (FTS) was activated, resulting in a big fireball. One thing to mention, almost NO rockets complete their goal (or even reach space) on their first try. The amount of flight data Firefly got is astronomical (pun intended), and this launch has gained Firefly many big starting points to learn from. This was a failure, but as many people have said, failure is but an opportunity for success. The livestream is available, and a better quality video of the failure can be seen below.

The Perseverance rover recently performed a maneuver that is crucial to the mission. The coring drill on the rover drilled a cylinder of rock from a rock named Rochette. The rover fired a laser at the rock to ensure the rock held up to the drill's standards. (Previously the rock fell apart when it was being drilled, meaning the sample would not be picked up.) The sample was picked up by the arm and transferred to sample tube #266. There are 43 total sample tubes, five of which will be used to sample the air to see if it is carrying any life. This sample marks an important milestone of the Perseverance rover's ultimate goal, which is to send Martian samples back to Earth.


Some SpaceX news this week:

SpaceX's Starship S20 had its Thermal Protection System installed (TPS). This shows the rocket is now capable of reentering the earth's atmosphere. Also, SpaceX has installed more engines on Booster 4, which may be rolled out to the launch site later this week.


That is all for today, and thanks for joining!


Norminal News

Bringing the passion of space to the minds of dreamers

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