The first voyage of Firefly Aerospace’s new rocket, named Alpha, ended with an explosion moments after lift-off.
“Alpha experienced an anomaly during first stage ascent that resulted in the loss of the vehicle. As we gather more information, additional details will be provided,” the company tweeted.
Video of the launch shows the rocket exploding two-and-a-half minutes after taking off in California.
An earlier countdown to launch Alpha was aborted with seconds to go due to unspecified technical reasons, but the launch controllers let things go ahead the second time.
Before exploding, the rocket appeared to take twice as long to break the speed of sound than had been expected.
Alpha was meant to reach the speed of sound 67 seconds after lift-off, but it took 140 seconds to reach Mach 1 instead, and 10 seconds later the vehicle exploded.
Addressing concerns about Debris, Firefly tweeted: “Prior to entering the countdown, the Range cleared the pad and all surrounding areas to minimise risk to Firefly employees, base staff, and the general public. We are continuing to work with the Range, following all safety protocols.”
The rocket which stands 95ft (29m) tall is designed to handle 1,000kg payloads and was aiming to reach orbit with its launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The mission, named DREAM (Dedicated Research & Education Accelerator Mission) was a test flight carrying 11 technical payloads, including cubesats and a demonstration spacecraft powered by an electric thruster.