Author Topic: Firefly Alpha Flight 2: To the Black : VSFB SLC-2W : 1 October 2022 07:01 UTC  (Read 64874 times)

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https://twitter.com/sandovalphotos/status/1576641556794122240

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@Firefly_Space Alpha lifting off from SLC-2. #ToTheBlack

Everyday Astronaut noted that the second stage restart was a "less than one second burn" (I thought it looked like 1-point-something seconds in the video).  I think the plan was for a two second burn. 

Also, near as I can tell, that burn didn't take place at the point in the orbit they wanted because of tracking issues.

You think the burn was commanded from the ground and not preprogrammed?

I guess that is possible for a 'sort of test' launch.

I may have been misinterpreting the mission control audio, so take all this with several grains of salt.

It seemed like they had originally intended to have the burn almost immediately, as they were being tracked by Hawaii. They didn't actually perform the burn until they were over South Africa. They couldn't get tracking from Hawaii, they thought at the time, because of an issue on the tracking station's end. They then couldn't get tracking from Mauritius (an island the Indian Ocean) because their orbit was low. It's possible that not making the burn over Hawaii is the reason they were too low.
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

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If I'm doing the mathematics correctly the orbits they achieved have about 99.11% of the specific orbital energy of the target orbit. For comparison, a 100x100km orbit would have been 96.91% of the target.
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Online EspenU

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Everyday Astronaut noted that the second stage restart was a "less than one second burn" (I thought it looked like 1-point-something seconds in the video).  I think the plan was for a two second burn. 

Also, near as I can tell, that burn didn't take place at the point in the orbit they wanted because of tracking issues.

You think the burn was commanded from the ground and not preprogrammed?

I guess that is possible for a 'sort of test' launch.

I may have been misinterpreting the mission control audio, so take all this with several grains of salt.

It seemed like they had originally intended to have the burn almost immediately, as they were being tracked by Hawaii. They didn't actually perform the burn until they were over South Africa. They couldn't get tracking from Hawaii, they thought at the time, because of an issue on the tracking station's end. They then couldn't get tracking from Mauritius (an island the Indian Ocean) because their orbit was low. It's possible that not making the burn over Hawaii is the reason they were too low.
I believe Jim has stated many, many times that rockets are autonomous and burns like this are not commanded from the ground.
Don't see a good reason why Alpha would be any different.

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Firefly updated the Mission Video with ground control sounds.

Flight 2 "To The Black"

Tony De La Rosa

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Firefly Launch Customers NASA TechEdSat-15

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Learn more about NASA's TechEdSat-15 mission that successfully launched on Firefly's first orbital mission FLTA002 "To The Black" on Oct 1st at 12:01AM PDT.

Mission Details:
The TechEdSat-15 is a three-unit CubeSat that weighs 9.1 pounds and carries experiments that are being advanced in TechEdSat’s Nano-Orbital Workshop (NOW) rapid flight development series.

TechEdSat-15’s primary experiment is a version of an exo-brake intended to survive much higher temperature environments – several hundred degrees – than in previous flights. It will demonstrate the next step forward in nanosatellites’ ability to target an Earth entry point.

The exo-brake is a device that applies drag in Earth’s exosphere – the uppermost reaches of the atmosphere – to slow the speed of a satellite’s descent and change its direction. This experiment will permit the satellite to survive closer-to-peak heating, maintain telemetry, and assess the dynamics as the system enters the top of the atmosphere.

Another experiment on TechEdSat-15 includes the Beacon And Memory Board Interface (BAMBI), which optimizes internal and external data transfer from the nanosatellite.

The TechEdSat-NOW series has multiple research goals including using the exo-brake to de-orbit high-altitude nanosatellites at end of mission to reduce issues related to orbital debris. Additionally, drag modulation has uses for sample return from low-Earth orbit as well as tailoring orbits during aero-pass maneuvers for future planetary applications.

Tony De La Rosa

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Teachers in Space -- Flight 2

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Learn more about Teachers in Space and their mission Serenity successfully launched on Firefly's first orbital mission FLTA002 "To The Black".

Mission Details
To collect flight data during the mission and make it available to the educational community for analysis and comparison to data collected on other flights and vehicles.

Typical data collected: Atmospheric pressure, Temperature, and Radiation via a matched pair of Geiger counters, one wrapped in experimental radiation protection material, one unwrapped



Tony De La Rosa

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twitter.com/13ericralph31/status/1576791748818669568

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In lieu of a more substantive statement from Firefly's official accounts, a nice stand-in from CEO Bill Weber says that Alpha deployed its 7 payloads "at exactly the spot...intended." That was far from clear after third-party orbit info was released. https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6981896810797629440/

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FIREFLY DID IT!!!!!

Early this morning, Firefly Aerospace put our Alpha FLT002 rocket into orbit and deployed our customer payloads at exactly the spot we intended - on only our second attempt...ever.  When we did, we proved that even the sky is not the limit for Firefly.  So, so proud of all of the men and women of Firefly who made this happen - their passion and energy is inspiring.  #Firefly #ToTheBlack #MakingSpaceForEveryone

https://twitter.com/13ericralph31/status/1576792466128502784

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I'm still skeptical that a 210 x 270 km orbit was *intended* for customer satellites, as that would seemingly give them just a few weeks of useful life in space, but this appears to suggest it was.

Offline Ken the Bin

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Firefly Aerospace press release:

Firefly Aerospace Successfully Reaches Orbit and Deploys Customer Payloads with its Alpha Rocket

Quote from: Firefly Aerospace
Alpha becomes the first and only orbit-ready US rocket in the 1300kg payload vehicle class

CEDAR PARK, Texas – October 3, 2022 – Firefly Aerospace, a new space leader in launch, spacecraft, and in-space services, announced that its Alpha FLTA002 mission successfully reached orbit and deployed customer payloads, lifting off on October 1 at 12:01am PST from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. 

With the success of this mission, Firefly is now the first company to launch and reach orbit from US soil in only its second attempt. Firefly also becomes the first and only US commercial space company with a rocket ready to take customers to space in the highly desired 1300kg payload lift class. 

“With the success of this flight, Firefly has announced to the world there is a new orbital launch vehicle, available today, with a capacity that is pivotal to our commercial and government customers,” said Bill Weber, Firefly CEO. “Proving our flight and deployment capabilities on only our second attempt is a testament to the maturity of our technology and the expertise of our team. This is an exciting day at Firefly, and we have many, many more ahead. I could not be more excited for the Firefly team.”

Alpha is an all-composite rocket that uses patented tap-off engine cycle technology, which reduces cost and improves efficiency while maintaining the strength and reliability of the rocket. During the mission, Alpha successfully completed all major technical milestones, including a two-burn maneuver, relighting the second stage during its first orbital flight.

“I am so proud of everyone in the company, both past and present, who have shared my dream of starting a launch company that would further revolutionize the space economy,” said Tom Markusic, Firefly Founder and Chief Technology Advisor. “The Firefly team set out to develop the best small launch vehicle in the world. Mission accomplished!”

Building on today’s success, Firefly is completing the Acceptance Testing Protocol (ATP) for its  Alpha 3 vehicle in preparation for its upcoming NASA VCLS Demo 2-FB ELaNa 43 launch. In addition, Firefly continues the production of multiple rockets at its Texas manufacturing facilities using all the lessons learned from existing flights and testing. Firefly is scheduled for six Alpha launches to take customer payloads to space in 2023, and 12 more in 2024.

Alpha FLTA002 Mission Details

The flight began with a nominal countdown and lift-off at 12:01 AM PDT and progressed flawlessly through each stage of flight, then inserting into an elliptical transfer orbit, coasting to apogee, and performing a circularization burn with confirmation of final payload deployment at approximately T+1 hour, which is one of the most technically challenging aspects of the mission.

FLTA002 deployed a total of three payloads, including demonstration satellites from NASA TechEdSat-15 in conjunction with San Jose State University (SJSU), Teachers in Space, and Libre Space Foundation. These payloads will perform several in-space experiments, including an “exo-brake” to help in the deorbiting of satellites and test the world’s first fully-free and open-source telecommunications constellation.

Firefly sends special thanks to SLD-30 for their continued support and partnership and the customers on FLTA002 for their dedication and unwavering confidence in Firefly’s technology.

Firefly is a portfolio company of AE Industrial Partners, LP (“AEI”), a private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense & government services, space, power & utility services, and specialty industrial markets.

About Firefly Aerospace

Firefly Aerospace is an emerging end-to-end space transportation company focused on developing a family of launch vehicles, in-space vehicles, and services to provide industry-leading affordability, convenience, and reliability to its government and commercial customers. Firefly’s launch vehicles, combined with their in-space vehicles, such as the Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) and Blue Ghost Lunar Lander, provide the space industry with a single source for missions from LEO to the surface of the Moon and beyond.

About AE Industrial Partners

AE Industrial Partners is a private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense & government services, space, power & utility services, and specialty industrial markets. AE Industrial Partners invests in market-leading companies that can benefit from its deep industry knowledge, operating experience, and relationships throughout its target markets. AE Industrial Partners is a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment and the ILPA Diversity in Action initiative. Learn more at www.aeroequity.com.

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I believe Jim has stated many, many times that rockets are autonomous and burns like this are not commanded from the ground.
Don't see a good reason why Alpha would be any different.
I seem to recall hearing it specifically stated during the broadcast that burns and deployment were autonomous, not needing ground communication at the time of the event. In fact, a few of the shots we got of SES-2 and deployment seemed to be delayed from when they actually occured, because we only saw them once communication were reestablished and video could be downloaded.

Offline mn

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Firefly Aerospace press release:

Firefly Aerospace Successfully Reaches Orbit and Deploys Customer Payloads with its Alpha Rocket

Quote from: Firefly Aerospace
Alpha becomes the first and only orbit-ready US rocket in the 1300kg payload vehicle class

CEDAR PARK, Texas – October 3, 2022 – Firefly Aerospace, a new space leader in launch, spacecraft, and in-space services, announced that its Alpha FLTA002 mission successfully reached orbit and deployed customer payloads, lifting off on October 1 at 12:01am PST from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. 

With the success of this mission, Firefly is now the first company to launch and reach orbit from US soil in only its second attempt. Firefly also becomes the first and only US commercial space company with a rocket ready to take customers to space in the highly desired 1300kg payload lift class. 

“With the success of this flight, Firefly has announced to the world there is a new orbital launch vehicle, available today, with a capacity that is pivotal to our commercial and government customers,” said Bill Weber, Firefly CEO. “Proving our flight and deployment capabilities on only our second attempt is a testament to the maturity of our technology and the expertise of our team. This is an exciting day at Firefly, and we have many, many more ahead. I could not be more excited for the Firefly team.”

Alpha is an all-composite rocket that uses patented tap-off engine cycle technology, which reduces cost and improves efficiency while maintaining the strength and reliability of the rocket. During the mission, Alpha successfully completed all major technical milestones, including a two-burn maneuver, relighting the second stage during its first orbital flight.

“I am so proud of everyone in the company, both past and present, who have shared my dream of starting a launch company that would further revolutionize the space economy,” said Tom Markusic, Firefly Founder and Chief Technology Advisor. “The Firefly team set out to develop the best small launch vehicle in the world. Mission accomplished!”

Building on today’s success, Firefly is completing the Acceptance Testing Protocol (ATP) for its  Alpha 3 vehicle in preparation for its upcoming NASA VCLS Demo 2-FB ELaNa 43 launch. In addition, Firefly continues the production of multiple rockets at its Texas manufacturing facilities using all the lessons learned from existing flights and testing. Firefly is scheduled for six Alpha launches to take customer payloads to space in 2023, and 12 more in 2024.

Alpha FLTA002 Mission Details

The flight began with a nominal countdown and lift-off at 12:01 AM PDT and progressed flawlessly through each stage of flight, then inserting into an elliptical transfer orbit, coasting to apogee, and performing a circularization burn with confirmation of final payload deployment at approximately T+1 hour, which is one of the most technically challenging aspects of the mission.

FLTA002 deployed a total of three payloads, including demonstration satellites from NASA TechEdSat-15 in conjunction with San Jose State University (SJSU), Teachers in Space, and Libre Space Foundation. These payloads will perform several in-space experiments, including an “exo-brake” to help in the deorbiting of satellites and test the world’s first fully-free and open-source telecommunications constellation.

Firefly sends special thanks to SLD-30 for their continued support and partnership and the customers on FLTA002 for their dedication and unwavering confidence in Firefly’s technology.

Firefly is a portfolio company of AE Industrial Partners, LP (“AEI”), a private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense & government services, space, power & utility services, and specialty industrial markets.

About Firefly Aerospace

Firefly Aerospace is an emerging end-to-end space transportation company focused on developing a family of launch vehicles, in-space vehicles, and services to provide industry-leading affordability, convenience, and reliability to its government and commercial customers. Firefly’s launch vehicles, combined with their in-space vehicles, such as the Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) and Blue Ghost Lunar Lander, provide the space industry with a single source for missions from LEO to the surface of the Moon and beyond.

About AE Industrial Partners

AE Industrial Partners is a private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense & government services, space, power & utility services, and specialty industrial markets. AE Industrial Partners invests in market-leading companies that can benefit from its deep industry knowledge, operating experience, and relationships throughout its target markets. AE Industrial Partners is a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment and the ILPA Diversity in Action initiative. Learn more at www.aeroequity.com.

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No mention of target orbit? But they do mention a successful circularization burn.

And it's quite clear that the actual orbit is not 'circular'?

I'm very happy they reached orbit successfully, the truth is great, perhaps no need to embellish.

Offline PM3

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If this was SpaceX or ULA, they would honestly inform that the rocket underperformed and that they are working to fix that issue. This is how to build customers' trust.

Firefly is doing the opposite by emphasizing "100% mission success". Because they have little financial reserves and need to convince investors to give them fresh money.

Quote
Rocket builder Firefly Aerospace reached orbit for the first time this weekend, hitting a crucial milestone that kick-starts its launch business and opens new funding opportunities for growth, the company's chief executive said on Monday.
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/rocket-builder-firefly-nails-crucial-204024576.html

"growth" is startup-speak for "not going bankrupt".
« Last Edit: 10/04/2022 06:07 am by PM3 »
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Offline edzieba

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If this was SpaceX or ULA, they would honestly inform that the rocket underperformed and that they are working to fix that issue. This is how to build customers' trust.
For Cygnus OA-6:
- Immediately post-launch, "successful launch" press release, no mention of any issues (extended Centaur burn and timings off by over a minute had already been noted independently during those burns, so the cat was out of the bag)
- After NASA press conference, official response was then "discrepancy between predicted burn durations and actual times not unusual; results from trajectory updates"
- 1 day post-launch “The team is evaluating the occurrence as part of the standard post-flight data analysis,”
- 2 days post-launch, detailed description of issue (but not cause) from Tory Bruno

I should have more faith in the internets ability to turn good things into signs of a conspiracy.
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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It seemed like they had originally intended to have the burn almost immediately, as they were being tracked by Hawaii. They didn't actually perform the burn until they were over South Africa.

The press kit says the orbital insertion burn was to be at T+53 minutes and last for two seconds. That would put it over South Africa, not Hawaii. That would be expected, since at burn out the vehicle would be near perigee. Apogee would be half an orbit or about 45 minutes later (adding 8 minutes for the climb to orbit gives 53 minutes).

T+00:53:37 Stage 2 Ignition #2
T+00:53:39 Second Engine Cut Off #2 (SECO 2)

No mention of target orbit? But they do mention a successful circularization burn.

For what it's worth, the press kit says the target orbit is 300 km.
« Last Edit: 10/05/2022 07:12 am by Steven Pietrobon »
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline Rondaz

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The Firefly Alpha Flight 2 payloads are definitely not in their desired orbit (which was targeted for 300km circular orbit). Since they'll reenter very soon, maybe we should not consider this as a mission success...

https://twitter.com/cathirame/status/1577473289504444416

Offline Rondaz

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Yeah, and 3 of the 5 tracked objects are coming down pretty fast.

https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/1577501869995446276

Offline Rondaz

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A more annotated version. TES-15 is the only object that Space-Track has identified so far.  I suspect B and D have some cross-tagging; A is probably  Stage 2?

https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/1577507069846069249

The Firefly Alpha Flight 2 payloads are definitely not in their desired orbit (which was targeted for 300km circular orbit). Since they'll reenter very soon, maybe we should not consider this as a mission success...

If the goal was the put these satellites into an orbit where they would be useful, then this would be a failure. But the goal was only to get as close to orbit as possible, and not only did they get there, but they performed a stage relight and deployed payload. They went above and beyond the mission objectives, so it's a success.
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

Offline imprezive

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The Firefly Alpha Flight 2 payloads are definitely not in their desired orbit (which was targeted for 300km circular orbit). Since they'll reenter very soon, maybe we should not consider this as a mission success...

If the goal was the put these satellites into an orbit where they would be useful, then this would be a failure. But the goal was only to get as close to orbit as possible, and not only did they get there, but they performed a stage relight and deployed payload. They went above and beyond the mission objectives, so it's a success.

Presumably none of us know what the contract with their customers says. Even if it said best effort orbit I would surprised if the customers consider it a success to be deployed into a non-useful orbit. At the end of the day rockets are just delivery vehicles. A delivery to the wrong location is not considered a success. If you don’t want to have that as a criteria on your demo flight don’t put customer spacecraft on it.

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