Texas-based Firefly Aerospace’s first rocket launch attempt ended in an explosion minutes after liftoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Thursday night.
Videos and photos posted online showed an orange fireball about two minutes after liftoff of the Firefly Alpha rocket at 9:59 p.m. EDT. White smoke trailed as a piece of debris as it fell into the Pacific Ocean.
The U.S. Space Force terminated the flight after a problem that wasn’t immediately known or disclosed, according to a Space Force news release. Such flight terminations are done to prevent rockets from flying outside the designated launch path.
The announcement also said debris could be floating in the ocean and may wash ashore.
“A team of investigators has determined that any debris from the rocket should be considered unsafe,” according to the release.
The company acknowledged the incident, which it called an anomaly, quickly on Twitter, and posted a statement.
“While it’s too early to draw conclusions as to the root cause, we will be diligent in our investigation,” Firefly Aerospace said.
The rocket had been carrying experiments for Firefly and for several universities.
Despite losing the rocket, the company said it gained data about the rocket as it reached supersonic speed. Alpha, at 95 feet tall, is designed to place payloads into orbit.
Firefly, founded in 2014, is led by CEO Tom Markusic, a rocket propulsion scientist who worked for NASA, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.