Tom Markusic Out as Firefly CEO 3 Months After AEI Takes Majority Stake in Rocket Company

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Firefly Aerospace co-founder Tom Markusic is out as CEO, a move that comes three months after AE Industrial Partners (AEI) led a $75 million Series B funding round and completed its acquisition of a majority stake in the rocket company.

Firefly announced this week that Markusic transitioned to the role of full-time board member and chief technical advisor on Thursday, June 16. He remains “a significant minority investor” in the company, which is preparing for the second flight test of its Alpha small-satellite booster.

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Rocket Updates: Relativity, Firefly and PLD Space Move Toward Launches

Relativity Space’s Terran 1 arrives at Cape Canaveral for its maiden launch. (Credit: Relativity Space)

Relativity Space’s Terran 1 booster has arrived at Cape Canaveral in Florida in preparation for its maiden flight later this year.

Dedicated Mission: $12 million

First Stage: 9 Aeon engines
Second Stage: 1 Aeon engine

Maximum Payload:
1,250 kg to 185 km low Earth orbit

Nominal Payload:
900 kg to 500 km sun synchronous orbit

High Altitude Payload:
700 kg to 1200 km sun synchronous orbit

Employees wave goodbye to a rocket stage being shipped to Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

Firefly Aerospace has shipped both stages required for the second flight test of its Alpha booster from Briggs, Texas to Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The launch, which has been named To the Black, could occur in July.

First Stage: 4 Reaver 1 engines
Second Stage: 1 Lightning 1 engine

Payload

1,170 kg to low Earth orbit
Inclination: 28.5°
Altitude: 200 km

745 kg to sun synchronous orbit
Altitude: 500 km

MIURA 1 rocket on the launch pad for tests. (Credit: PLD Space)

PLD Space has its MIURA 1 single-stage suborbital rocket on the launch pad for tests.

First Stage:  1 TEPREL-B engine

Payload

100 kg to 150 km

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.

Firefly to Become the Premier Supplier of Rocket Engines and Spaceflight Components for the Emerging New Space Industry

Reaver engines (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, August 6, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced the launch of a new line of business dedicated to supplying rocket engines and other spaceflight components to the emerging New Space industry. 

“Our goal with this line of business is to become the Tier 1 supplier of components to the New Space industry,” said Tom Markusic, CEO of Firefly Aerospace. “Our component sales business model has inherent advantages over businesses that focus on a single (e.g., rocket engines) or narrow range (e.g., valves) of components.”

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