AE Industrial Partners Leads $75 Million Series B Growth Equity Investment in Firefly Aerospace, a Leading Provider of Launch and In-Space Vehicles

AEI Concurrently Closes its Previously Announced Strategic Investment in Firefly Aerospace

BOCA RATON, Fla., March 22, 2022 (AE Industrial Partners PR) — AE Industrial Partners, LP (“AEI”), a U.S-based private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense and government services, space, power and utility services, and specialty industrial markets, announced today that it led a $75 million Series B financing round in Firefly Aerospace (“Firefly” or the “Company”), an emerging leader in economical launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services. The Series B investment will support Firefly’s next stage of growth by providing capital for future Alpha flights, the Blue Ghost Lunar Lander Program, and the development of additional launch and in-space solutions. Concurrently, AEI completed its previously reported acquisition of Noosphere Venture Partners LP’s (“Noosphere Ventures”) stake in the Company. The transaction values Firefly above its May 2021 Series A valuation of more than $1 billion.

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AE Industrial Partners Reaches a Definitive Agreement to Acquire a Significant Stake in Firefly Aerospace, a Leading Provider of Launch and In-Space Vehicles

Definitive Agreement on Acquisition by U.S.-based Investment Firm will Fuel Firefly’s Continued Journey as a Leader in End-to-End Space Transportation

BOCA RATON, Fla., Feb. 24, 2022 (AEI PR) — AE Industrial Partners, LP (“AEI”), a U.S-based private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense & government services, space, power and utility services, and specialty industrial markets, announced today that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire a significant stake in Firefly Aerospace (“Firefly” or “the Company”), an emerging leader in economical launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, from Noosphere Venture Partners LP (“Noosphere”). Transaction closing is subject to the satisfaction of regulatory approvals, including Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) clearance. Other terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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Firefly Aerospace Owner Max Polyakov Sells Stake to Tom Markusic

Max Polyakov

Firefly Aerospace majority stakeholder Max Polyakov announced he was selling his shares to company co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic in a bitter message on his Facebook page.

I am giving up for 1 usd consideration all my 58% stake in Firefly to my co-founder and partner Tom. Dear CFIUS, Air Force and 23 agencies of USA who betrayed me and judge me in all your actions for past 15 months . I hope now you are happy . History will judge all of you guys. Max love Ukraine and yes I have Ukrainian passport and I am Founder of Firefly !!! Bye my “bird” and at the end of the days I proud what I done for my Land soul and heritage !!!

CFIUS is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Late last year, the committee required that Polyakov, who is Ukrainian, sell his stake in the company. Bloomberg reported:

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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Firefly Aerospace Halts Launch Activities at Vandenberg as Majority Owner Polyakov Forced to Sell Stake in Company

Bloomberg reports that Firefly Aerospace has stopped preparations for the second launch of its Alpha booster due to a decision by the U.S. government to force the company’s majority owner, Ukrainian entrepreneur, Max Polyakov to sell his majority stake in the company.

Government and aerospace industry officials have expressed objections to Polyakov’s control of the company amid fears that valuable technology could make its way to Ukraine, Russia or other nations trying to develop rocket programs. Despite putting more than $200 million of his fortune into Firefly, Polyakov agreed to step down from the company’s board and Firefly’s day-to-day activities in late 2020 to help make it easier for the company to win U.S. government and military contracts and ease some of the underlying tensions. 

In late November, however, Polyakov received a letter from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, that called out national security worries and requested that Polyakov and his investment firm Noosphere Venture Partners sell off their roughly 50% stake in Firefly. Polyakov agreed to this demand, according to his spokespeople, while maintaining that his ownership of Firefly poses no national security threats. “Noosphere Ventures announced today that it intends to retain an investment banking firm to assist in the sale of Noosphere Ventures’ ownership interest in Firefly Aerospace,” Polyakov’s company said in a statement. 

While educated as an obstetrician-gynecologist, Polyakov made his fortune through business software ventures and internet gaming, dating and marketing sites. He rescued Firefly from bankruptcy in 2017 and poured money into the company to revitalize it. In September, Firefly conducted its first rocket launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California. The rocket didn’t reach orbit but performed well for an initial launch, and the company has been racing to fire up a second one.

The U.S. government halted Firefly’s current rocket launch operations at Vandenberg as the ownership issue with Polyakov plays out, according to two people familiar with the situation. The clashes between Polyakov and the U.S. haven’t been previously reported.

Firefly Names Former Department of Defense and Intelligence Community Air Force Colonel to Lead Firefly Space Transport Services

Jason B. Mello tapped to lead efforts in spaceflight customer acquisition as Firefly continues its momentum into large-scale production

CEDAR PARK, Texas, November 3, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., an emerging leader in economical launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced that Jason B. Mello will join the team as President of Firefly Space Transport Services (STS), formerly known as Firefly Black, located in Washington D.C. Firefly STS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Firefly Aerospace, will serve as the primary business development unit for all of Firefly’s customers – commercial, civil, and military – with initial emphasis on Government customers. A former Air Force Colonel, Mello brings over 23 years of experience leading teams across the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community helping address and solve our Nation’s most difficult science and technology problems.

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Firefly Completes Critical Design Review for Blue Ghost Lunar Lander

Blue Ghost lunar lander (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

Announces it has successfully completed NASA’s Critical Design Review of its Blue Ghost lunar lander and is on schedule for September 2023 lunar mission

CEDAR PARK, Texas, October 25, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leader in economical launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced it reached a major milestone with the successful completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) of their Blue Ghost lunar lander. This CDR paves the way for construction of the Blue Ghost lander, which is scheduled to touch down in the Mare Crisium lunar basin in September of 2023 carrying ten NASA payloads as part of the $93.3-million Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract secured by Firefly earlier this year. The lander will also take several commercial payloads to the lunar surface. The 2023 Blue Ghost mission will be the first of what are expected to be yearly lunar surface missions for Firefly.

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Report: Firefly Sells Reaver Engines to Astra Space

Reaver engines (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

Firefly Aerospace’s recent announcement that it would supply rocket engines to other companies left everyone wondering what customers it had in mind. The Verge reports that Astra Space is a buyer.

Under the deal, which closed earlier this year, Firefly will send up to 50 of its Reaver rocket engines to Astra’s rocket factory in Alameda, California, where a development engine was already delivered in late spring for roughly half a million dollars, according to an internal Firefly document viewed by The Verge and a person briefed on the agreement. Astra engineers have been picking apart the engine for detailed inspection, said a person familiar with the terms, who, like others involved in the deal, declined to speak on the record because of a strict non-disclosure agreement.

Astra’s vice president of communications Kati Dahm declined to discuss the agreement when asked by The Verge for comment on specific details, but disputed as incorrect the number of engines that the deal covers, as well as the cost of roughly a half million dollars for the initial development engine that’s sitting in Astra’s factory. Dahm declined to provide any additional information to back up those disputes.

Fusing Firefly’s engines with Astra’s own rocket technology would help Astra reach its publicly stated “500 kg to 500 km” goal, or the capability to send 1,102 pounds of satellites into the most popular orbital altitude for mega-constellations. The company’s current rocket — simply called Rocket, nothing else — has been test-launched through various iterations, and after three main attempts, has yet to reach orbit. The latest rocket iterations use five of the company’s own Delphin engines, which are designed to lift up to 331 pounds to low-Earth orbit.

Astra Space’s first three launches failed for different reasons. The most recent suffered the failure of one of its five first-stage engines one second after ignition.

ASI and Qascom to Bring Italy and Galileo Navigation System to the Moon

Photo of Mare Crisium taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credit: NASA)

ROME (ASI PR) — Finding the best route for lunar orbit and easy parking on the Moon is the goal of NEIL (Navigation Early Investigation on Lunar surface) GNSS receiver with Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology. The creation of NEIL, named in honor of Neil Armstrong, the first man to touch the lunar soil, is at the center of an agreement between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and NASA linked to the CLPS 19-D mission (NASA missions with contributions commercial and private of an experimental nature) with which the American space agency has planned to land with a lander in the Mare Crisium basin in 2023. [Editor’s Note: This is Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander mission.]

NEIL, subject of the contract signed between ASI and the company Qascom SRL, is the on-board payload that will be an integral part of the experiment called Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment  (LuGRE), defined in the ASI/NASA agreement, which aims to develop an activity in a lunar and cislunar environment.

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Engine Failure Doomed Firefly Alpha’s Maiden Flight

The premature shutdown of one of Firefly Alpha’s four first stage Reaver engines 15 seconds into the flight doomed the maiden launch of the new booster from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday, the company said.

“It was an uneventful shutdown – the engine didn’t fail — the propellant main valves on the engine simply closed and thrust terminated from engine 2. The vehicle continued to climb and maintain control for a total of about 145 seconds, whereas nominal first stage burn duration is about 165 seconds. However, due to missing the thrust of 1 of 4 engines the climb rate was slow, and the vehicle was challenged to maintain control without the thrust vectoring of engine 2,” Firefly said in a commentary accompanying a new video of the launch.

“Alpha was able to compensate at subsonic speeds, but as it moved through transonic and into supersonic flight, where control is most challenging, the three engine thrust vector control was insufficient and the vehicle tumbled out of control. The range terminated the flight using the explosive Flight Termination System (FTS). The rocket did not explode on its own,” the statement said.

“Firefly has commenced a thorough anomaly investigation to gain understanding of why engine 2 shutdown early, and uncover any other relevant unexpected events during flight. We will report root cause of the anomaly at the end of this investigation. In collaboration with the FAA and our partners at Space Launch Delta 30, we will return to conduct the second Alpha flight as soon as possible,” Firefly said.

“Although the vehicle did not make it to orbit, the day marked a major advancement for the Firefly team, as we demonstrated that we “arrived” as a company capable of building and launching rockets. We also acquired a wealth of flight data that will greatly enhance the likelihood of Alpha achieving orbit during its second flight. In short, we had a very successful first flight,” the company added.

Firefly Aerospace Reviewing Flight Data of Failed Alpha Rocket Launch

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif., September 2, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Today we conducted the first-ever test flight of our Alpha booster. Prior to the anomaly, we had a countdown and lift off at 6:59 pm local time. While we did not meet all of our mission objectives, we did achieve a number of them: successful first stage ignition, liftoff off the pad, progression to supersonic speed, and we obtained a substantial amount of flight data.

More than two minutes into the flight, Apha experienced an anomaly resulting in the early end of the mission. At Firefly, our goal is to always look out for the safeyt of our employees, partners, and community. We are happy to report that there were no injuries associated with the anomaly.

While it’s too early to draw conclusions as to the root cause, we will be diligent in our investigation, in partnership with the FAA and Vandenberg Space Force Base. We will utilize the data we obtained from the test flight and apply it to future missions. Our engineers are currently combing through thousands of lines of ground and flight system telemetry in order to better understand what occurred.

We want to thank the teams at Vandenberg Space Force Base and Space Launch Delta 30 for their partnership in this launch and the FAA for their continued support. We will be providing further updates as more information becomes available.

Full Video of Firefly Alpha’s Launch & Explosion

Video Caption: Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket suffered an in-flight anomaly on its debut launch. Shot on September 2nd, 2021 from the press site at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Video and Pictures from Jack Beyer (@TheJackBeyer) and Michael Baylor (@NextSpaceFlight). Edited by Jack Beyer.

Firefly Alpha Rocket Fails in Maiden Launch Attempt

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket failed in its maiden launch attempt on Thursday evening, dealing a setback to the Tom Markusic-led company that is seeking to establish itself in the small-satellite launch industry.

Video of the flight showed the two stage rocket tumbling out of control before exploding after liftoff at 6:59 p.m. PDT from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The explosion occurred about 1 minute 45 seconds into the flight.

“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 Texas-based company tweeted.

The rocket was carrying small satellites from the United States, United Kingdom, Greece and Spain.

Failure on a maiden rocket launch is not unusual. Launch vehicles that suffered catastrophic failures on their first flights have gone on to succeed.

The two-stage, 29 meter (95 foot) tall Alpha booster is capable of delivery one metric ton (2,205 lb) to low Earth orbit and 630 kg (1,389 lb) to a 500 km (311 mile) high sun-synchronous orbit. Firefly is charging $15 million for a dedicated launch.

Firefly Alpha Launch Scheduled for Thursday Evening From Vandenberg

Tom Markusic and Lauren Lyons in front of Firefly Alpha rocket on the pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

Firefly Aerospace will attempt the maiden flight of its Alpha booster later today from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The window for the rideshare mission extends from 6 to 10 p.m. PDT (0100-0500 UTC on Friday). A livestream of the launch will be available through Everyday Astronaut beginning one hour before the scheduled liftoff.

The rideshare mission will carry a number of payloads, which are show below.

PayloadPurposeCompany/ OrganizationNation
 DREAMCubeSat deployerFireflyUSA
BSS1 (DFAST Demonstrator)Technology demonstrationBenchmark SpaceUSA
CRESST DREAM COMETTechnology demonstrationUniversity of CambridgeUK
Firefly Capsule 1EducationFireflyUSA
FOSSASAT 1bLoRa communicationsFOSSA SystemsSpain
FOSSASAT 2PhotographyFOSSA SystemsSpain
GENESIS LAmateur radio/PropulsionAMSAT-EASpain
GENESIS NAmateur radio/PropulsionAMSAT-EASpain
HiapoThermospheric researchHawaii Science and Technology MuseumUSA
NPS-CENETIX-Orbital 1Technology demonstrationAT&T / NPSUSA
PICOBUS-1PocketQube deployerLibre Space FoundationGreece
QUBIK 1Amateur radioLibre Space FoundationGreece
QUBIK 2Amateur radioLibre Space FoundationGreece
Spinnaker3Technology demonstrationPurdue UniversityUSA
TIS SerenityEducationTeachers in Space, Inc.USA

Source: Wikipedia

The two-stage, 29 meter (95 foot) tall Alpha booster is capable of delivery one metric ton (2,205 lb) to low Earth orbit and 630 kg (1,389 lb) to a 500 km (311 mile) high sun-synchronous orbit. Firefly is charging $15 million for a dedicated launch.

Spacecraft Deorbiting Device Developed at Purdue Ready for Firefly Alpha Launch on Thursday

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue University PR) — A drag sail that a team at Purdue University developed to pull launch vehicles in space back to Earth is scheduled to undergo a test launch on Thursday (Sept. 2).

The mission, set to take off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, will evaluate how well the prototype helps its vehicle deorbit from space after mission completion. A livestream of the launch will be available through Everyday Astronaut.

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