Cedar Park, Texas-based Firefly Aerospace, Inc. has reached an agreement with Space Florida – the state’s aerospace economic development agency – to establish a facility at Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Through the agreement, Firefly, a spacecraft and launch vehicle developer and provider of launch and in-space services, will conduct launch operations at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 20 (SLC-20) and create manufacturing facilities at Exploration Park, Florida.
"Firefly Aerospace is proud to be the newest member of the Florida Space Coast family," says Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic. "Our mass production manufacturing facility in Exploration Park will enable Firefly to produce 24 Alpha vehicles a year, enabling a launch cadence that will support a rapidly expanding global small satellite revolution and the commercialization of cislunar space."
Firefly’s Alpha is a two-stage, expendable launch vehicle developed from funding provided by a NASA Venture Class Launch Services contract, which is a awarded to companies developing launch capabilities for small satellites (SmallSats) and CubeSats. Both stages of the Alpha vehicle use a kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel, with the first stage using an altitude compensating aerospike engine design and the second stage a conventional contour bell nozzle.
(Image courtesy: Firefly Aerospace, Inc.)
"SLC-20 will allow Firefly access to lower inclination orbital trajectories for its customers and enable access to lunar trajectories for its lander program as part of our Commercial Lunar Payload Services contract with NASA," states Brad Obrocto, Firefly’s director of launch operations.
"Firefly's presence in the State of Florida further solidifies that Florida's Spaceport System is poised to lead the world in this next space era. We look forward to the new launch and manufacturing capabilities that Firefly brings to SLC-20 and Exploration Park, respectively," says Frank DiBello, Space Florida president and CEO.
Space Florida will match up to $18.9 million of Firefly's $52 million Florida infrastructure investments via the Florida Department of Transportation Spaceport Improvement Program.
In order to obtain site operations permission, Firefly met requirements in order to obtain a statement of capability from the 45th Space Wing of the United States Air Force, the commanding unit that oversees Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
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"The 45th Space Wing welcomes new launch providers who wish to assist in furthering America's assured access to space. The statement of capability represents an important first step for Firefly Aerospace to obtain certification for launch operations on the Eastern Range," according to John Way, 45th Space Wing spokesperson.
"The space industry is expected to be fastest growing segment of the worldwide economy in the coming decades, with analysts predicting a global market of over a $1 trillion a year by 2040," says Dr. Markusic. "Firefly Aerospace is uniquely positioned to be successful in this new economy. With launch sites on both coasts and a mass production facility to support future growth, our global team of over 300 highly accomplished engineers and technicians will provide space solutions from [low Earth orbit] to the surface of the Moon and beyond."
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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.
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