Unforgiving Failures: the challenges of upper stages

Three days before Christmas, an Alpha rocket built by Firefly Aerospace lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The initial phases of the flight appeared to go as expected, placing the upper stage and its satellite payload, a Lockheed Martin technology demonstration satellite called Tantrum, into a parking orbit. All that was left, Firefly said as it wrapped up its launch webcast, was a second burn of the upper stage about 40 minutes later to circularize the orbit.