Firefly Aerospace has signed an agreement with Spaceflight Inc. that provides Spaceflight with the majority of the payload capacity aboard a Firefly launch vehicle scheduled to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California sometime in 2021. Spaceflight is a ride-share service provider for space-bound payloads, working with other companies to pool resources and combine spacecraft aboard one vehicle to defray the per-customer cost of a launch while maximizing use of the rocket’s payload capacity.
Firefly’s Alpha rocket, its first launch vehicle, will have a full payload capacity of 630 kilograms (around 1,400 pounds) to sun synchronous orbit, and Spaceflight will manage singing and integrating payloads from a number of customers to fill that capacity. This agreement also includes a provision that extends longer-term to future missions, with Spaceflight on board to help secure customers to join future Firefly Alpha launches as well.
Already, Spaceflight has emerged as a leading company in the rocket ride-share market, providing launch payload management services for 271 satellites across 29 different launches. Firefly is currently still in the testing phase for Alpha, but has made significant progress and continues its work despite the coronavirus pandemic, despite some setbacks including a fire on the test pad in January.
Firefly Aerospace still plans to fly Alpha for the first time later this year, with final acceptance testing of the vehicle’s first and second stages currently underway at the company’s Briggs, Texas facility. Should that initial test flight prove successful, the company should be in a good position to begin flying commercially in 2021.