NASA Awards $5.5M Venture Class Launch Services Contract to Firefly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CEDAR PARK, Texas, October 14, 2015

Demonstration CubeSat launch set for early 2018

Firefly Space Systems, Inc., a New Space leader in the development of dedicated small satellite launch vehicles has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct a demonstration CubeSat launch by March 2018. The Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract to Firefly is valued at $5.5M.

Mark Wiese, chief of the Flight Projects Office for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center, described VCLS contracts as representing “NASA’s investment in the future of the commercial launch industry for SmallSats.”

Since there hasn’t been a dedicated launcher available, CubeSats have flown into orbit as auxiliary payloads that are released after the booster has achieved the primary mission. They have also been sprung into the orbital void from canisters aboard the International Space Station to conduct research missions. In both cases though, the CubeSats are at the mercy of the primary payload and the orbit it must fly in.

“The CubeSat and small satellite engineers and scientists are coming up with missions that justify flying unique orbits and at altitudes that are not available if we only fly as secondary payloads,” said Garrett Skrobot, lead for the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission for LSP. “These are still experimental satellites, but the technology they are employing is mature enough to use in these new ways.”

That’s where Firefly and its family of launch vehicles comes in. Since its inception, Firefly’s mission has been to dramatically reduce the cost of commercial launch services for small satellites and science missions across the entire sub-1 metric ton payload segment. The company is focusing on the development of low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market. Firefly Alpha, the company’s first rocket, will be capable of lifting 400kg to a 400km equatorial orbit or 200kg to a 500km Sun-synchronous orbit

“Being recognized by NASA with a VCLS contract is a tremendous honor for the Firefly team. We have worked tirelessly during the last 18 months to develop Firefly Alpha, a vehicle that will be different from anything that has come before it. NASA’s vote of confidence in our technology and team is a significant boost to our efforts of ‘Making Space For Everyone’” said Dr. Thomas Markusic, Firefly’s CEO.

Added Maureen Gannon, Firefly’s Vice President of Business Development: “We are greatly encouraged knowing that NASA shares our industry’s vision for low-cost boosters to enable ever more exciting missions in exploration, science and education.”

ABOUT FIREFLY SPACE SYSTEMS

Firefly, the leading small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX was created to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option. The Firefly team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at NASA and various New Space companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Simplified and optimized for least cost, and utilizing innovations such as a rethought engine design, Firefly has positioned itself to be the technological and cost effective solution leader for traditional manufacturers of small satellites for government agencies, earth observation, and constellation customers.

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Firefly Names Rocket Launch and Test Director

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Firefly Names Rocket Launch and Test Director

Cedar Park, Texas, September 17, 2015

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.

“I’ve had the good fortune to work with Anne in the past. Our team is incredibly encouraged to have her join our efforts and lead the development of Firefly’s launch and test capability,” said Firefly CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic. “Anne will immediately put her skills to work in an impactful way by leading activation of the new site and testing our first rocket engines. She will also work to finalize our launch site selection and build a world class rocket launch team.”

The timing of Ms. Chinnery’ s hiring coincides with the company’s completion earlier this month of its new, state-of-the-art rocket test site facility located innearby Briggs, TX. The site was constructed by Test Site Manager Joel Waldrum’s team in just eight months.

The Briggs site is one of several candidates to house Firefly’s primary manufacturing facility, where the Company plans to build up to 50 “Alpha” vehicles per year and create up to 200 additional jobs with an annual payroll of approximately $15 million by 2019. The last months have been a period of strong growth on the personnel front, which has seen the Firefly team expand to over 60 members.

“I’m obviously thrilled to join the team here at Firefly,” said Ms. Chinnery. “The future is in space. Young, innovative and revolutionary companies like ours are going to be the ones to get us there. I’m looking forward to being a part of shaping our next steps into space,” she added.

“Bottom line is that Anne is a proven leader in test and launch environments and embodies the smart, no-nonsense, “let’s just get it done” attitude that is highly valued at Firefly,” Markusic added.

ABOUT FIREFLY SPACE SYSTEMS

Firefly is a small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX which was created to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option. The Firefly team includeshighly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at NASA and various New Space companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Simplified and optimized for least cost, and utilizing innovations such as a rethought engine design, Firefly has positioned itself to be the technological and cost effective solution leader for traditional manufacturers of small satellites for government agencies, earth observation, and constellation customers.

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First Rocket Engine Test a Success for Firefly Space Systems

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First Rocket Engine Test a Success for Firefly Space Systems

CEDAR PARK, Texas, September 10, 2015 

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”).

“The successful testing of our first engine represents a quantum step in the technical maturation of our company. We have demonstrated that our core engine design can reliably start, stop and operate at a steady state without combustion instabilities,” said Firefly Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic.

Firefly FRE-R1 engine test on Test Stand 1

Firefly is developing one combustor design that will be utilized to power both stages of their small-sat launcher – “Firefly Alpha.” The Alpha upper stage will utilize an engine (FRE-1) with a single combustor, whereas the first stage engine (FRE-2) will use an array of twelve of the same combustors arranged in an annular aerospike configuration.

FRE-R1 is a propulsion pathfinder for both stages of Alpha. It operates using LOx/RP-1 propellants, but the basic combustor design can utilize either methane or RP-1 fuels. The upper stage variant of the engine (FRE-1) will produce 7,000 lbf thrust, and the first stage cluster used in FRE-2 will produce 125,000 lbf thrust.

The first test series successfully demonstrated startup, shutdown, and steady state combustion. The test also served to prove the complete functionality of Firefly’s new test site. Upcoming engine tests will emphasize performance tuning and longer duration “mission duty cycle” runs. The first hot-fire tests of the FRE-2 aerospike engine are expected to take place in early 2016.

“In only fifteen months, we have built our Texas team, constructed state-of-the-art engineering and test facilities, designed a complete rocket (Alpha) to PDR level, and built and tested key vehicle technologies, such as the FRE-R1 engine,” added Markusic.

“I’m incredibly proud of the innovative and hard-driving spirit of the Firefly team. They are smart, hard-working and building momentum in hardware development, which will carry Firefly to space in short order.”

ABOUT FIREFLY SPACE SYSTEMS

Firefly is a small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX which was created to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option. The Firefly team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at NASA and various New Space companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Simplified and optimized for least cost, and utilizing innovations such as a rethought engine design, Firefly has positioned itself to be the technological and cost effective solution leader for traditional manufacturers of small satellites for government agencies, earth observation, and constellation

 

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Firefly Activates Its First Rocket Engine Test Stand

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Firefly Activates Its First Rocket Engine Test Stand

The company’s 200-acre rocket test site will soon feature multiple independent test stands

CEDAR PARK, Texas, September 9, 2015

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.

The first phase of the state-of-the-art rocket development site was constructed by the Firefly team in just eight months. “Test Stand 1,” is now officially complete. Rocket engines will be tested horizontally on this stand which is rated to over 150,000 lbf of thrust. Foundations for the thrust structure – which must react to the load of the rocket engine during firing – extend 40 feet into the ground. Large volume propellant storage tanks, cross-country liquid oxygen, liquid nitrogen, water, power, and fiber optic data lines were installed to support operation of the stand. Additionally, a 10,000 square foot building was constructed, remote from the test stand, which houses the site control room as well as fabrication and assembly areas.

This site will serve as a key asset in the development of Firefly Alpha and future launch vehicles. Ultimately it will include multiple independent test stands for rocket engine, structural and stage system testing. The Briggs site is also one of several candidates to house Firefly’s primary manufacturing facility, where the Company plans to build up to 50 “Alpha” vehicles per year and create up to 200 additional jobs with an annual payroll of approximately $15 million by 2019. The company is currently experiencing a period of robust personnel growth that has seen its team expand to over 60 members.


Picture 1: Aerial view of Firefly Test Site in Briggs, TX


Picture 2: Site control room and assembly building


Picture 3: Firefly employees celebrate the completion of Test Stand 1

Test Stand 1 was engineered to test LOx/hydrocarbon (RP-1 and methane) engines and associated components. It includes storage tanks for LOx and LN2 (12,000 gallon) and RP-1 (6,000 gallon), as well as run tanks rated to 1,100 psia. Engines up to six feet in diameter can be mounted horizontally to the stand’s thrust measurement system. Control and data acquisition is achieved using National Instruments (NASDAQ:NATI) PXI equipment, operated remotely from the control center using NI VeriStand software.


Picture 4: Liquid Oxygen engine main valve test on Test Stand 1

“This was no easy task. Our team turned what was literally a green-field site just last December into the state-of-the-art test facility that we have here today,” said Firefly Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Thomas Markusic. He added: “Our site manager, Joel Waldrum, and his team worked methodically and tirelessly to produce this vital test capability. At the same time, our propulsion team has been moving aggressively ahead and we eagerly anticipate our first engine tests in the weeks to come.”

ABOUT FIREFLY SPACE SYSTEMS

Firefly is a small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX which was created to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option. The Firefly team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at NASA and various New Space companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Simplified and optimized for least cost, and utilizing innovations such as a rethought engine design, Firefly has positioned itself to be the technological and cost effective solution leader for traditional manufacturers of small satellites for government agencies, earth observation, and constellation customers.

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Firefly Space Systems Releases Payload User's Guide

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Firefly Space Systems Releases “Payload User’s Guide”

CEDAR PARK, Texas, July 16, 2015

Firefly Space Systems, Inc., developers of dedicated launchers for the small satellite market, announced today the release of its Payload User’s Guide for its Alpha vehicle. Alpha represents a revolution in small satellite launcher design. It’s the first vehicle in a scalable family of launchers specifically designed to address the diverse needs of customers in the fast-growing worldwide small satellite market.

The Payload User’s Guide will provide Firefly’s customers with critical, in-depth information detailing the operations and capabilities of its Alpha vehicle. As the company’s customers begin the process of planning their respective small satellite missions, the Payload User’s Guide will enable them to prepare more effectively and efficiently.

“This is another important milestone for Firefly. It demonstrates our continued focus and progress on reimagining the entire customer launch experience,” said Firefly Co-Founder PJ King. “Not only from the perspective of dedicated low-cost launch, but also by listening closely to customers to insure we provide the professional, streamlined experience that they deserve. Our Payload User’s Guide is another step forward in that direction.”

VP of Business Development Maureen Gannon added that, “We have two overriding goals at Firefly. The first is to provide our customers with revolutionary launch vehicles. The second is to deliver every single customer tailored, world-class service. Our Payload User’s Guide, combined with our team’s track record and experience in developing launch vehicles and satellites, is another example of our commitment to designing a vehicle driven by customer needs.”

ABOUT FIREFLY SPACE SYSTEMS

Firefly is a ground-based small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX.The Firefly team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at various New Space companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

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