Firefly Aerospace Expands Advisory Board With Lightfoot, Nield & Others

CEDAR PARK, Texas, July 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly), a developer of orbital launch vehicles for the small to medium satellite market, announced today the formation of an all-star advisory board. Members of the board act as ambassadors and advocates of Firefly and support the executive and management teams through consultation and strategic analysis. Initial appointments to the Firefly board are Jeff Bingham, Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr., George Nield, and William F. Readdy.

Jeff Bingham brings nearly 40 years of governmental experience to Firefly. Instrumental in shaping space station policy, he served most recently as the senior advisor on space for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He was previously the associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Legislative Affairs. Jeff played a key role in ensuring continued congressional support for the ISS as the legislative coordinator for the International Space Station program.
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Firefly Aerospace Receives USAF Statement of Support for Use of Vandenberg Launch Complex

Space Launch Complex 2 West with Delta II booster. (Credit: NASA)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, May 1, 2018 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly), a developer of orbital launch vehicles for the small to medium satellite market, announced today that the United States Air Force (USAF) has issued a “Statement of Support for the Firefly Aerospace Program, Alpha and Beta Launch Vehicles” to utilize Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) Space Launch Complex 2 West (SLC-2W) for future launches of the Firefly Alpha and Beta launch vehicles.

“Firefly Aerospace is greatly appreciative that NASA and the USAF support the transition of SLC-2W to a commercial launch site dedicated to the launch of Firefly vehicles,” said Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic. “SLC-2W has been an incredible asset for US space missions for over 50 years. We are humbled and honored that Firefly Alpha and Beta launch vehicles will be adding many successful missions to the already storied history of SLC-2W.”

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Firefly Space Systems Assets to be Auctioned on Thursday

The assets of Firefly Space Systems will be auctioned off on Thursday, March 16, in Menlo Park, Calif.

Notice of the auction has been posted by Development Specialists, Inc. There also is a classified advertisement in USA Today.

The company had been developing a small satellite launch vehicle before it suspended operations in September due to financial difficulties.

Virgin Galactic had launched litigation against Firefly co-founder Thomas Markusic, who had previously led Virgin’s effort to develop a competing launcher. Virgin claims that Markusic took intellectual property when he left the company in 2014.

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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Firefly Receives Letters of Intent for 42 Launches

firefly_space_systems_logoLetters of Intent valued at over $300M
exceed projected launch capacity through 2021

CEDAR PARK, Texas, November 14, 2016 (Firefly Space Systems PR) — Firefly Space Systems, the Texas-based developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today it has received letters of intent (LOI) in excess of projected launch capacity through 2021.

“The support from established and newspace satellite manufacturers following our recent announcement of financial difficulties has been tremendous. These LOI’s demonstrate the market demand for the small satellite launch product that Firefly is developing,” said Firefly co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic.

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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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Update on Virgin Galactic-Firefly Litigation

Credit: Daniel Mayer
Credit: Daniel Mayer

Just a brief update on the legal fight between Virgin Galactic and Firefly Space Systems.

The hearing scheduled for today in Los Angeles Superior Court has been postponed until Feb. 23. The hearing concerns a lawsuit filed by Firefly board member P.J. King seeking to overturn an arbitrator’s ruling that he must turn over documents and other materials to Virgin Galactic.

I’ve been getting some inquiries from media about the court documents. The lawsuit filed in LA County Superior Court is online at https://www.lacourt.org/. Do a search in civil cases under online services. The documents are not in the federal PACER system.

The documents for the Clark County, Nevada district court filing were not online the last time I looked. Your best bet would be to contact the parties involved. You will find contact information in the documents filed for the Los Angeles lawsuit.

For anyone who wants to get caught up on this story, here’s Parabolic Arc’s coverage to date:

Updated: Firefly Board Member Sues to Stop Alleged Virgin Galactic “Fishing Expedition” – Dec. 16, 2015

Here’s the Information Virgin Galactic Has Sought From Firefly – Dec. 17, 2015

Former Propulsion Chief Accuses Virgin Galactic of Lying About SpaceShipTwo’s Safety, Performance – Jan. 12, 2016

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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Here’s the Information Virgin Galactic Has Sought From Firefly

Tom Markusic
Tom Markusic

In Virgin Galactic’s arbitration procedure against its former Vice President of Propulsion, Tom Markusic, Sir Richard Brnason’s space tourism company has sought a broad range of documents in its effort to prove that Markusic violated his employment contract and took proprietary information in setting up a rival company, Firefly Space Systems.

Earlier this week, Firefly co-fouder and board member P.J. King filed suit in Los Angeles seeking to set aside a subpoena signed by arbitrator Louise LaMothe seeking documents from him. Virgin also has requested documents from Firefly and director Michael Blum.

The information below shows the documents requested in the subpoenas served to King, Firefly and Blum. The materials include employment contracts, organizational charts, specifications for engines and launch vehicles, development schedules, financial statements and other documents.

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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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LauncherOne’s Long & Winding Road to Orbit: A Timeline

LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about  four years from 2013 to 2017.

Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.

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Firefly Systems Names Launch & Test Director

Anne Chinnery
Anne Chinnery

CEDAR PARK, Texas, September 17, 2015 (Firefly PR) — Firefly Space Systems, Inc., a New Space developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today that aerospace veteran Anne Chinnery has joined its growing team as the company’s first Launch and Test Director. She will report to and work directly with Firefly Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic.

Ms. Chinnery brings almost three decades of active experience working at leading aerospace industry organizations both in the public and private sectors. She served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where she managed test and launch activities at Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB) and most recently served in similar senior roles at leading New Space companies. Ms. Chinnery holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Air Force Academy and Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology, with specialties in rocket propulsion and attitude dynamics.

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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.

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Firefly Conducts First Engine Hot Fire

Firefly FRE-R1 engine test on Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)
Firefly FRE-R1 engine test on Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, Sept. 10, 2015 (Firefly PR) — Firefly Space Systems, the Texas-based developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today that it has successfully tested its first rocket engine, Firefly Rocket Engine Research 1 (“FRE-R1”).

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