Firefly, which is headquartered near Austin, Texas, said it is working with federal regulators to determine what went wrong before it works toward its next orbital flight attempt.
Firefly is among a long list of commercial rocket companies pushing to make space a place of competitive business rather than the sole domain of governments. But whether or not a startup can successfully put rockets into orbit — as companies such as SpaceX, Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit have been able to do — has often been a determining factor in whether a company can stay financially afloat.
If Firefly were successful Thursday evening, it would’ve become only the third US company to successfully reach orbit with a rocket that is designed specifically to haul batches of tiny satellites to space. Rocket Lab, which so far has only launched out of New Zealand, and Virgin Orbit, the sister company of the suborbital space tourism company that took its founder Sir Richard Branson to the edge of space, are so far the only US companies to achieve such a milestone.
But dozens — possibly hundreds — of startups are waiting in the wings with nearly identical business plans: Build cheap, lightweight rockets that can make frequent trips to orbit.
In contrast, the most notable of the so-called “new space” companies, SpaceX, builds massive, 200-foot-tall rockets that can be specifically tailored to deliver hefty telecom or national security satellites to distant orbits or massive batches of small satellites to nearby orbits.
But Firefly and others with similar business plans are all part of a rush to meet perceived demands in the market, as space cheerleaders from Wall Street to Silicon Valley predict a near future in which space-based technologies provide the platform for everything from high-speed, global internet to extraterrestrial vacation spots.