Science

The Alpha rocket from Firefly Aerospace puts 8 cubesats into orbit

The Alpha rocket from Firefly Aerospace carried out its fifth launch in the early hours of Thursday, July 4th, and placed eight cubesats into orbit. These small satellites are mainly used in low Earth orbit for applications such as remote sensing and communications, although they are now also being used in interplanetary missions.

The mission, called “Noise of Summer”, took off from the Vandenberg base of the California Space Force at 06:04 CEST, after a two-day delay due to problems with the ground support equipment. “Noise of Summer” sent the eight cubesats on the Alpha, a 29-meter high rocket, selected through NASA’s Cubesat Launch Initiative, which seeks to facilitate access to space for satellites developed by educational institutions and non-profit organizations in the United States.

The cubesats were created by teams from the University of Arizona, the University of Kansas, the University of Maine, the University of Washington, the organization Teachers in Space, and two NASA facilities: the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. It was planned for the eight cubesats to be deployed 55 minutes after launch, and one hour later, Firefly confirmed that seven had separated correctly, while they continued to verify the deployment of the University of Arizona’s satellite, CatSat.

“Noise of Summer” was also designed to demonstrate Firefly’s ability to quickly respond to launch directives, carrying out operations such as transporting and docking the payload fairing to the Alpha rocket in a few hours. Firefly has experience in this type of accelerated activities, as demonstrated in September 2023 with the mission “Victus Nox” for the United States Space Force, which was launched just 27 hours after receiving the official order, a record for national security missions.

Alpha debuted in September 2021 with a failed test flight. Its second mission in October 2022 was a partial success, while the third one, “Victus Nox”, was a complete success. The fourth flight, last December, had mixed results, managing to put its payload into orbit, although not in the target orbit. Nevertheless, Lockheed Martin was able to accomplish the main objectives of the mission, including the rapid commissioning of the satellite.

Source: Space.com




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