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, announced on 22 April 2020 that 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.
“Spaceflight has long been committed to providing reliable, cost-effective access to space and we are eager to partner with Firefly, as both companies share this exciting vision,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “In fact, we have many customers in mind, including some specifically in APAC, which we believe will benefit from this additional capacity and flexibility. Spaceflight is honored to secure the primary payload aboard an Alpha flight in 2021, and we very much look forward to working closely with the Firefly team to accelerate more small satellite rideshare launches for the industry.”
”Alpha launches in 2021 will play a key role in establishing our manifest and production capability, and having Spaceflight’s deep payload integration expertise in our corner is an important part of our overall launch strategy,” said Dr. Tom Markusic, Firefly CEO. “Our Alpha launch vehicle will quickly fill a major market gap with the capability to deliver 1 metric ton to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 630 kilograms to the highly desirable 500 kilogram SSO, about four times the current payload capability of other small satellite launch vehicles.”
The Alpha launch vehicle is designed to address the needs and demands of the burgeoning small-satellite market, combining the highest payload performance with the lowest cost per kilogram to orbit in its vehicle class. Alpha will provide launch options for both full vehicle and rideshare missions.
Spaceflight has launched a record-setting 271 satellites via 29 rideshare missions, establishing itself as the leading rideshare service provider, offering comprehensive launch and integration services across a global portfolio of vehicles. Spaceflight successfully executed nine missions in 2019, the most rideshare launches the company has performed in one year. The company also completed the first-ever rideshare mission to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) in 2019, launching the first privately funded lunar lander.
Leading up to the maiden flight of the Alpha launch vehicle later this year, final acceptance of the first and second stage will take place over the next several months at Firefly’s test facilities in Briggs, Texas, with hardware deployments to Vandenberg planned for early summer. Firefly teams are also integrating new composite technologies into its overall manufacturing capabilities, with the goal of significantly boosting production of its launch vehicles to align with demand growth over the next few years.