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 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.

SpaceX, Boeing & Firefly File FCC Applications for Fall Flights

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for a temporary Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to fly its Starship prototype to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) from its Boca Chica test site in Texas.

The approval would be valid for hops from Oct. 11, 2020 to April 11, 2021. Starship prototypes have flown to an altitude of 150 meters from Boca Chica.

Boeing has filed for a FCC license for its second Starliner orbital flight test. The application covers a six-month period from Nov. 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021.

The uncrewed Starliner test is a repeat of a flight that went awry last December. The spacecraft failed to dock with the space station due to software and communications problems.

Firefly Aerospace has filed for approval for the maiden flight of its Firefly Alpha booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The approval would be valid from Nov. 21, 2020 until May 21, 2021.

Apha is designed to loft 1 metric ton into low Earth orbit and 630 kg into a 500 km sun synchronous orbit at a dedicated mission cost of $15 million.

Firefly Aerospace Achieves AS9100 Quality Certification

Important quality milestone reached as Firefly transitions from developmental phase to first launch of the Firefly Alpha rocket

CEDAR PARK, Texas, May 6, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced it has secured AS9100 quality certification as it advances from developmental to production phase ahead of the inaugural flight of its Alpha launch vehicle later this year.

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Firefly Aerospace and Spaceflight Inc. Sign Launch Services Agreement

CEDAR PARK, Texas/SEATTLE, April 22, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, and Spaceflight Inc., the leading launch services and mission management provider, today announced they have signed a Launch Services Agreement (LSA). The agreement confirms that Spaceflight will secure the majority of the payload mass aboard a Firefly Alpha launch, scheduled for lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2021.

In addition to being the anchor customer, Spaceflight will sign, manage, integrate, and deploy multiple payloads on the flight, enabling Firefly to maximize its full 630 kilogram launch capacity on the commercial Alpha mission to Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). Also, according to the LSA, Spaceflight will help maximize payload capacity aboard future Firefly Alpha launches.

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SATLANTIS Enters into Launch Services Agreement with Firefly Aerospace

CEDAR PARK, Texas, Feb. 4, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Firefly Aerospace, Inc.(Firefly), a provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft and in-space services, announced today the execution of a Launch Services Agreement with SATLANTIS, a provider of high-performance payload technologies for Earth observation and remote sensing.

Beginning in 2022, SATLANTIS will utilize the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle to deploy a constellation of satellites with breakthrough high-resolution multispectral cameras with four bands of 80 cm native resolution.

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ISILAUNCH Signs Launch Services Agreement with Firefly Aerospace

CEDAR PARK, Texas, January 21, 2020 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc.(Firefly), a provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft and in-space services, announced today the execution of a Launch Services Agreement with Innovative Space Logistics BV (ISILAUNCH), a launch services subsidiary of Netherlands based ISIS – Innovative Solutions in Space B.V. (ISISPACE). Under the agreement, ISILAUNCH will offer to its customers multiple dedicated and rideshare launch opportunities on the Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle, on missions beginning in 2020.

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D-Orbit Signs Framework Agreement with Firefly to Acquire Launch Capacity

FINO MORNASCO, Italy, March 4, 2019 (D-Orbit PR) — D-Orbit S.p.A., an Italian service provider of the New Space sector, signed a multi-year framework agreement with US-based launch operator Firefly Aerospace Inc. (Firefly) to purchase launch capacity of the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle.

The agreement grants D-Orbit the status of a preferred launch aggregation partner for the European market, allowing D-Orbit to purchase, market, and resell launch vehicle capacity, and to provide logistics support and integration activities at its operational premises in Italy.

“We are proud of this partnership with Firefly, one of the most innovative small payload launch operators,” said Pietro Guerrieri, D-Orbit Chief Strategic Officer. “Capitalizing on the capabilities of ION CubeSat Carrier, our free-flying CubeSat deployer, we are expanding our launch services portfolio and taking an additional step in our roadmap to offer the New Space market an innovative launch transportation solution.”

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Movement on Firefly-Virgin Galactic Legal Dispute?

This is an interesting Tweet from Firefly Space Systems’ co-founder Michael A. Blum on Wednesday to Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides with a cc: to Whitesides’ boss, Richard Branson. Claude appears to be Claude M. Stern, one of Virgin Galactic’s lawyers.

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Virgin Galactic Sues Firefly, Officers for Alleged Misappropriation of Trade Secrets

firefly_space_systems_logoEarlier this month, Virgin Galactic filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Firefly Systems and two of its officers, Michael Blum and P.J. King, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition.

The lawsuit is related to arbitration between Virgin Galactic and the company’s former vice president of propulsion, Thomas Markusic. Virgin alleges Markusic took trade secrets and confidential information with him when he left his position at the end of 2013 to co-found Firefly with Blum and King.

The lawsuit alleges that Firefly, Blum and King benefited from knowledge that Markusic took with him from Virgin Galactic. Markusic and the defendants have denied the claims.

Firefly laid off all of its employees at the end of September, saying the company had run out of money after an investor pulled out.

Firefly was developing a small satellite launcher, Firefly Alpha, that would have competed for business with the LauncherOne booster that Virgin Galactic is developing.











Firefly Planned to Air Launch Small Satellite Booster

firefly_space_systems_logoAn alert reader who goes by the pseudonym “redyns” has pointed out something very interesting about Firefly Space Systems, the company that on Thursday is reported to have laid off its entire staff due to financial difficulties.

In April, Firefly and NASA modified a contract under the Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) program from land launch to air launch, according to the USASpending.gov website. The company’s Firefly α small satellite booster was originally designed to launch vertically from the ground.

The website shows that Firefly was awarded a VCLS contract worth $4.4 million on Sept. 30, 2015. A second contract modification has been made to “deobligate” $2.5 million in funding from the contract. That modification was made on Sept. 27, two days before the layoffs.

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Orbital ATK’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicles Facing Increased Competition

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)
A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

Recently, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the use of surplus intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to launch satellites. Orbital ATK would like to lift the ban on using them to launch commercial satellites, the U.S. Air Force would like to find a way to sell the engines, and an emerging commercial launch industry that doesn’t want what it considers government-subsidized competition.

Now, you’ve probably been wondering a few things. What does Orbital ATK do with these engines? What does it launch on them? And what launch vehicles are in operation or in development to compete with these boosters?

Those are all great questions. And now the answers.

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Former Propulsion Chief Accuses Virgin Galactic of Lying About SpaceShipTwo’s Safety, Performance

SpaceShipTwo after being released for its final flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/NTSB)
SpaceShipTwo after being released for its final flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/NTSB)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s former vice president of propulsion, Thomas Markusic, has accused Richard Branson’s space company of lying about the safety and performance of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle.

“Dr. Markusic was forced to separate from VG [Virgin Galactic] because the company was defrauding the public about the ability of the vehicles to reach space and was utilizing rocket engine technologies that have a high probability of causing catastrophic failure and loss of life,” according to the document.

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Updated: Firefly Board Member Sues to Stop Alleged Virgin Galactic “Fishing Expedition”

firefly_space_systems_logoA member of Firefly Space Systems board of directors has filed suit in Los Angeles to overturn an arbitrator’s judgment that he turn documents over to rival Virgin Galactic in a dispute between Virgin and its former vice president of propulsion.

Patrick Joseph (P.J.) King filed the action on Tuesday in a case involving Tom Markusic, who left Virgin Galactic to form Firely with King in early 2014.

“After Dr. Markusic left Galactic, [Richard] Branson sued his ex-employee the the Arbitration, falsely accusing of Dr. Markusic of breaking his former employment agreement by ‘stealing’ what apparently is nothing more than standard open-source technical information which is available in the academic literature, that Galactic claims are someone ‘trade secrets'”, the suit reads.

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