Firefly Activates First Rocket Engine Test Stand

Aerial view of Firefly Test Site in Briggs, Texas. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)
Aerial view of Firefly Test Site in Briggs, Texas. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, Sept. 9, 2015 (Firefly PR) — Firefly Space Systems, Inc., a New Space developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today the completion of its brand new 200-acre test facility in Briggs, Texas, located just 25 miles from their main engineering office based in Cedar Park.

The first phase of the state-of-the-art rocket development site was constructed by the Firefly team in just eight months. “Test Stand 1,” is now officially complete. Rocket engines will be tested horizontally on this stand which is rated to over 150,000 lbf of thrust. Foundations for the thrust structure – which must react to the load of the rocket engine during firing – extend 40 feet into the ground. Large volume propellant storage tanks, cross-country liquid oxygen, liquid nitrogen, water, power, and fiber optic data lines were installed to support operation of the stand. Additionally, a 10,000 square foot building was constructed, remote from the test stand, which houses the site control room as well as fabrication and assembly areas.

Site control room and assembly building. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)
Site control room and assembly building. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)

This site will serve as a key asset in the development of Firefly Alpha and future launch vehicles. Ultimately it will include multiple independent test stands for rocket engine, structural and stage system testing. The Briggs site is also one of several candidates to house Firefly’s primary manufacturing facility, where the Company plans to build up to 50 “Alpha” vehicles per year and create up to 200 additional jobs with an annual payroll of approximately $15 million by 2019. The company is currently experiencing a period of robust personnel growth that has seen its team expand to over 60 members.

Employees celebrate the completion of Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)
Employees celebrate the completion of Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)

Test Stand 1 was engineered to test LOx/hydrocarbon (RP-1 and methane) engines and associated components. It includes storage tanks for LOx and LN2 (12,000 gallon) and RP-1 (6,000 gallon), as well as run tanks rated to 1,100 psia. Engines up to six feet in diameter can be mounted horizontally to the stand’s thrust measurement system. Control and data acquisition is achieved using National Instruments (NASDAQ:NATI) PXI equipment, operated remotely from the control center using NI VeriStand software.

 Liquid Oxygen engine main valve test on Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)
Liquid Oxygen engine main valve test on Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)

“This was no easy task. Our team turned what was literally a green-field site just last December into the state-of-the-art test facility that we have here today,” said Firefly Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Thomas Markusic. He added: “Our site manager, Joel Waldrum, and his team worked methodically and tirelessly to produce this vital test capability. At the same time, our propulsion team has been moving aggressively ahead and we eagerly anticipate our first engine tests in the weeks to come.”

ABOUT FIREFLY SPACE SYSTEMS

Firefly is a small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX which was created to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option. The Firefly team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at NASA and various New Space companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Simplified and optimized for least cost, and utilizing innovations such as a rethought engine design, Firefly has positioned itself to be the technological and cost effective solution leader for traditional manufacturers of small satellites for government agencies, earth observation, and constellation customers.