Firefly Research Receives NASA SBIR Award for Solar Electric Space Unity Vehicle

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected the research arm of Firefly Aerospace for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a solar electric transfer stage capable of taking payloads from the Earth to the moon.

“Firefly Research, LLC (FFR) is pleased to propose to NASA the development of a Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) to a CDR [critical design review] level of fidelity,” the technical abstract said. “This vehicle serves as a solar electric transfer stage, offering enough Delta-V to transfer more than 500 kg of payload from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) after launch on a small lift launch vehicle.

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NASA Engineers Analyze Navigation Needs of Artemis Moon Missions

Illustration of NASA’s lunar-orbiting Gateway and a human landing system in orbit around the Moon. (Credit: NASA)

By Danny Baird
​NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Space communications and navigation engineers at NASA are evaluating the navigation needs for the Artemis program, including identifying the precision navigation capabilities needed to establish the first sustained presence on the lunar surface.

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General Atomics Awards Contract to Firefly Aerospace to Launch NASA’s Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols Mission

Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite carrying NASA’s Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) instrument. (Credit: General Atomics)

SAN DIEGO, February 18, 2021 (GA-EMS PR) — General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that it has awarded a contract to Firefly Aerospace Inc. to launch a GA-EMS developed Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite carrying NASA’s Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) instrument. The launch vehicle delivering the satellite to space will be Firefly’s Alpha rocket and is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2022.

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Firefly Aerospace and Exolaunch Announce Launch Services Agreement

CEDAR PARK, TEXAS, February 10, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced a Launch Services Agreement with Exolaunch GmbH, a leading provider of launch services, mission management and separation systems, to integrate and launch multi-satellite clusters aboard Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle beginning in 2022.

Just weeks away from the maiden launch of its Alpha rocket, Firefly plans to swiftly accelerate the frequency of Alpha flights through collaborative partnerships, including this strategic partnership with Exolaunch, a German small-satellite integrator known for its substantial flight heritage, flight-proven deployment technologies and high reliability.

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NASA Awards Firefly Aerospace $93.3M to Deliver Suite of Payloads to the Moon in 2023

Blue Ghost lander on the moon. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, February 4, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, announced that NASA has awarded Firefly $93.3 million to deliver a suite of ten NASA-sponsored science and technology demonstration payloads to Mare Crisium in the Moon’s Crisium basin. Firefly’s ‘Blue Ghost’ lunar lander will deliver the payloads to the lunar surface in 2023 in fulfillment of Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) task order 19D, managed by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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Firefly Aerospace Announces New Board of Directors and Corporate Expansion Plans

Deborah Lee James and Robert Cardillo. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

CEDAR PARK, TEXAS, February 3, 2021 (Firefly PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, announced the appointment of Deborah Lee James and Robert Cardillo to its Board of Directors. Firefly’s new three-person board, including Firefly CEO, Dr. Tom Markusic, will be led by Ms. James, serving as Chairman of the Board.

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Firefly Aerospace and Adaptive Launch Solutions Sign Multi-Launch Agreement

CEDAR PARK, Texas, December 23, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, and Adaptive Launch Solutions (ALS), a designer of multi-manifest hardware, avionics and sequencers, and an integrator of single and multiple satellites, today announced they have signed a multi-year Launch Services Agreement (LSA) which includes four Alpha launches beginning in 2021.

“Small launch provides small satellite owners right sized, right priced access to space meeting their program and business goals,” said Phil Smith, CEO of ALS. “Our agreement with Firefly Aerospace will provide the flexibility and responsiveness demanded by government operators and commercial owners. Under the agreement, ALS is the launch service provider for Alpha Flights 2 and 3, planned for launch in 2021. These two missions offer our customers the earliest commercial launch opportunities on Firefly Alpha. ALS brings to our Firefly partnership decades of launch integration experience, most recently utilized on the United States Space Force (USSF) Launch Manifest Systems Integrator (LMSI) program. The LMSI program team delivers capabilities and integration approaches that establish U.S. government enterprise-wide capability for small satellite delivery to space.”

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Firefly Black Awarded NASA Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 Contract

WASHINGTON (Firefly Black PR) — Firefly Black, LLC is pleased to announce its selection by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the launch of Mission Two of the Venture Class Launch Service Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contract. Mission Two involves launch of two CubeSat constellations to a 550 km Sun-Synchronous Orbit, separated by a minimum of 10 degrees in plane change.

“Firefly Black is pleased to have been selected by NASA for this operationally challenging mission. We applaud NASA’s commitment to the nation’s emerging small launch industrial base and look forward to supporting America’s civil space launch needs for many years,” said Leslie Kovacs, company President. “The all-private development of our Alpha launch vehicle, and the impending completion of our Space Launch Complex 2 conversion at Vandenberg AFB, are on schedule to support the maiden Firefly Alpha launch in the first quarter of 2021. The men and women of Firefly, and our supply chain partners, are excited by this partnership with NASA.”

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NASA Awards Venture Class Launch Contracts to Astra, Relativity Space & Firefly

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has awarded multiple Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contracts to launch small satellites (SmallSats) to space, including CubeSats, microsats or nanosatellites. The three companies selected to provide these commercial launch capabilities, and the value of their firm fixed-price contracts, are:

  • Astra Space Inc. of Alameda, California: $3.9 million
  • Relativity Space Inc. of Long Beach, California: $3.0 million
  • Firefly Black LLC of Cedar Park, Texas: $9.8 million
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Space Florida Reaches Milestone on Redevelopment of Space Launch Complex 20, Signs Lease with Firefly

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (Space Florida PR) — As Space Florida continues re-development of Space Launch Complex 20 (SLC-20) at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as a multi-pad commercial launch site and home to Firefly Aerospace’s east coast launch operations, a significant milestone was reached in October with Space Florida’s completion of an Environmental Assessment encompassing modernization of facilities and high-cadence launch operations from the site.

Completion of this critical environmental review enables Firefly’s continued development and future operations at SLC-20, while ensuring that such activities pose no significant impact to the treasured natural assets of the spaceport.

Additionally, in October, Space Florida’s Board of Directors authorized Space Florida to enter long-term lease agreements for the site with the 45th Space Wing and Firefly, marking another important milestone in the ongoing transformation of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport into a hub for commercial space operations.

Space Florida would further like to congratulate Firefly on completion of acceptance testing and delivery of the first Alpha launch vehicle to Vandenberg AFB in preparation for the company’s initial launch.

We look forward to a successful mission as Firefly emerges as a leader in the small launch market, and continues preparation of both the SLC-20 launch site and the company’s new high-volume automated rocket factory in Space Florida’s Exploration Park at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Firefly Aerospace to Automate Composite Rocket Production with Ingersoll Machine Tools

CEDAR PARK, Texas  (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced a substantial commitment to increase its manufacturing capacity by transitioning large parts manufacturing to Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) Mongoose Hybrid systems from Ingersoll Machine Tools beginning next year. Once fully operational, Firefly’s AFP capabilities will enable it to produce its all-composite Alpha rocket airframe in as little as fourteen days.

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Firefly Aerospace Announces New Customer Agreements, Completes Stage 1 Acceptance Testing Ahead of First Alpha Launch

CEDAR PARK, Texas, Oct. 20, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced the successful acceptance test of the first stage of its Alpha launch vehicle for its inaugural flight later this year, and the execution of new customer agreements.

Firefly has signed a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) with Spire Global (Spire) for the launch of Lemur spacecraft on the Alpha launch vehicle. The LSA will provide for the launch of Spire spacecraft on multiple Alpha missions over the contract period. Firefly has also executed an LSA with Geometric Space Corporation for the full payload capacity of an Alpha launch vehicle.

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Video of Firefly Alpha First Stage Hot Fire

Video Caption: Today we performed a test of the Alpha flight first stage. The four Reaver engines performed 35 seconds of thrust vector control maneuvers, challenging the flame deflectors to constrain all that Reaver power! Today’s test was a major step in Firefly’s march to first flight.

IG Audit: NASA Planetary Program Faces Major Financial, Managerial Challenges

Dragonfly flying over the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) faces a series of managerial, financial and personnel challenges as it prepares to conduct a series of ever more ambitious missions to the moon and planets, according to a new audit by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

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