Firefly Aerospace

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Firefly Aerospace
Firefly Space Systems
FoundedMarch 2017 (2017-03)
FoundersMax Polyakov Tom Markusic
United States
Key people
Tom Markusic, CEO
Number of employees

Firefly Aerospace[1][2] is a private aerospace firm based in Austin, Texas, that is developing small and medium-sized launch vehicles for commercial launches to orbit. They are proponents of NewSpace: a movement in the aerospace industry whose objective is to increase access to space through innovative technical advances resulting in a reduction of launch cost and the lessening of regulations and logistical restrictions associated with dependence on national space institutions.[3]

The company was formed when former Firefly Space Systems assets were acquired by EOS Launcher in March 2017, which was then renamed Firefly Aerospace. Firefly Aerospace is wholly owned by Noosphere Ventures,[4][5][6][7] the strategic venture arm of Noosphere Global.[8][9][10] Firefly Aerospace is now working on the Alpha 2.0 launch vehicle which has a significantly larger payload capability than the previous Alpha developed by Firefly Space Systems. It aims to place a 1,000 kilogram payload into a low Earth orbit and 600 kilogram into a sun-synchronous orbit.[10] The restructured company has about 140 employees and is hiring.[11][2]


Firefly Space Systems[edit]

Early growth[edit]

Firefly Space Systems was formed in January 2014[12] by Tom Markusic, P.J. King and Michael Blum[13] and a small group of entrepreneurs who self-funded the company. In September 2014, Firefly announced it would move its headquarters from Hawthorne, California to Austin-suburb Cedar Park, Texas.[14] By November it had relocated to Texas.[3] It grew to 30 employees by August 2014 and 43 employees by November 2014.[3] Firefly had office and engineering facilities in Cedar Park, Texas and Hawthorne, California and purchased 215 acres (87 ha) of land for an engine test and manufacturing[15] facility in Briggs, Texas, 50 miles (80 km) north of Austin.[16]

Tom Markusic has a background in propulsion engineering, and has worked at other NewSpace companies including SpaceX — where he was manager of the SpaceX Texas Rocket Test Facility — and also held senior posts at Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin.[16] The company name came to Markusic while sitting on his back porch watching fireflies and realizing that in the future the sky above Earth might look like that as spacecraft ferried people to Mars.[3]

Firefly FRE-R1 engine test, September 2015

In 2014, Firefly purchased fiber-winding equipment for manufacturing composite cryotanks that will be built using an out-of-autoclave process. Prototype tanks were tested at Marshall Space Flight Center in mid-2014.[16]

The Firefly Alpha design was revealed in July 2014.[12] As of November 2014 Firefly's objective was to be cash-flow positive by 2018, based on anticipated small-satellite business.[3] Firefly had signed an agreement with Space Florida to launch from the Florida "Space Coast".

Firefly performed their first hot-fire engine test of the "Firefly Rocket Engine Research 1" (FRE-R1) on 10 September 2015.[17][18] The initial demonstration launch of the Firefly Alpha was planned to be as early as 2016.[19]


Firefly furloughed their entire staff in October 2016 after losing the backing of a major European investor in the aftermath of Brexit.[20] By 1 December 2016, Firefly Space Systems had permanently ceased engineering work.[21]

In March 2017, it was announced that "virtually all" of the assets of Firefly would be sold at auction, organized by EOS Launcher, Inc., who had previously bought $1M of Firefly debt.[22]

Firefly Aerospace[edit]

After going bankrupt and being liquidated in March 2017, the company was re-created as Firefly Aerospace by Noosphere Ventures, who bought out the assets of former Firefly Space Systems.[1] The plans for engine development were significantly altered by the new management, and the revised Alpha vehicle features a pump-fed engine and removes the aerospike configuration.[9] The reorganization has delayed development by approximately a year, with the first launch expected in the third quarter of 2019.[23]

Development of engines and structures has resumed and Firefly Aerospace has performed multiple hot-fire tests of its Lightning-1 second stage engine on its existing horizontal test stand. A vertical stage test stand is nearing completion and stage testing is expected to begin in the second half of 2018.

On May 17, 2018, Firefly Aerospace opened its Research and Development (R&D) center in the city of Dnipro, Ukraine. The Firefly R&D center, which will be a place of work to more than 150 employees, is equipped with the largest 3D-printer in Ukraine, intended for industrial manufacturing of high-quality metal parts.[24]

Launch vehicles[edit]

The opening of a branch in Ukraine. The poster shows "Alpha", "Beta" and "Gamma" models.

Firefly Alpha[edit]

The Alpha vehicle developed by Firefly Aerospace is an expendable launch vehicle with 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) payload capability to low earth orbit and 600 kg to sun-synchronous orbit. Projected launch cost is $15 million per launch. Alpha is designed to compete with vehicles like the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.[10]

It utilizes Reaver-1 and Lightning-1 engines and a lightweight carbon composite structure to reduce launch weight, resulting in improved payload fraction.[25]


Firefly is building and testing its engines at a single location in Texas, approximately 20-minutes from company headquarters, in Cedar Park, Texas. The company has about 50,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing facilities for building composite and metallic components in-house.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Once Grounded by Bankruptcy, Firefly Aerospace Appears Ready to Re-Launch
  2. ^ a b "Staring at Firefly Aerospace's hot rocket-engine flames in a Texas pasture". 2018-04-03.
  3. ^ a b c d e Hutchinson, Lee (2014-11-30). "Firefly Space Systems charges full-speed toward low Earth orbit". ars Technica. Archived from the original on 2014-12-03. Retrieved 2014-12-01.
  4. ^ "Noosphere Ventures USA, Inc.: Private Company Information - Bloomberg". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  5. ^ "Noosphere Ventures | Technology Knowledge Humanity". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  6. ^ "Noosphere Ventures | Crunchbase". Crunchbase. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  7. ^ "Ukrainian Entrepreneur Ventures From Online Dating to Space – Parabolic Arc". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  8. ^ "Noosphere Global Asset Management".
  9. ^ a b c Firefly Re-Emerges With Upgraded Alpha Rocket Design
  10. ^ a b c "Firefly Alpha". Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  11. ^ "Firefly Space Social Media comment on new company direction". Firefly Space. Retrieved 21 September 2017 – via Facebook.
  12. ^ a b Aron, Jacob (8 July 2014). "Next generation of space cowboys get ready to fly". Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  13. ^ Spacevidcast (now TMRO -- see new channel) (24 August 2014). "Firefly Space - 7.26" – via YouTube.
  14. ^ "Hawthorne-based rocket company to move to Texas". Daily Breeze. 2014-09-14. Retrieved 2014-12-03.
  15. ^ Episode 15: DOWNLINK--Firefly Space Systems — Interview. The Orbital Mechanics. 2015-06-23. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  16. ^ a b c Morring, Frank, Jr. (2014-08-25). "SpaceX Alum Goes After Falcon 1 Market With Firefly". Aviation Week. Archived from the original on 2014-12-03. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  17. ^ First Rocket Engine Test a Success for Firefly Space Systems, press release, 10 September 2015, accessed 17 December 2015.
  18. ^ Wall, Mike (2015-09-10). "New Firefly Rocket Engine Passes Big Test, Will Launch Small Satellites". Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  19. ^ New Alpha rocket will launch test flights from KSC, Florida Today, 15 October 2015, accessed 17 December 2015.
  20. ^ Foust, Jeff (2016-10-03). "Firefly Space Systems furloughs staff after investor backs out". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  21. ^ "Was a good place while it lasted"
  22. ^ "Firefly Space Systems assets to be sold -". 2017-03-15. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  23. ^ One of the young space firms that are sponsored by Max Polyakov is Firefly Aerospace
  24. ^ Firefly Aerospace Opens Research and Development Center in Dnipro, Ukraine - Firefly Aerospace
  25. ^ "Alpha Payload User's Guide" (PDF). 2018-04-03.

External links[edit]