|Function||Small-satellite launch vehicle|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Cost per launch||$15 million|
|Height||29 m (95 ft)|
|Diameter||1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Mass||54,000 kg (119,000 lb)|
|Payload to LEO|
|Mass||1000 kg |
|Payload to SSO|
|Launch sites||Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-2W Cape Canaveral Air Force Station SLC-20|
|First flight||April 2021 (delayed)|
|Diameter||1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Engines||4 × Reaver 1|
|Thrust||736.1 kN (165,500 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||295.6 seconds (2.899 km/s)|
|Fuel||RP-1 / LOX|
|Diameter||1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Engines||1 × Lightning 1|
|Thrust||70.1 kN (15,800 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||322.0 seconds (3.158 km/s)|
|Fuel||RP-1 / LOX|
Firefly Alpha (Firefly α) is a two-stage orbital expendable launch vehicle developed by the American aerospace company Firefly Aerospace to cover the commercial small satellite launch market. Alpha is intended to provide launch options for both full vehicle and ride share customers.
Alpha was initially designed with a first stage powered by an FRE-2 engine, which consisted of twelve nozzles arranged in an aerospike configuration. The engine used methane, as opposed to RP-1. The second stage was to be propelled by the FRE-1 engine, which used a conventional bell nozzle. It was intended to launch 400 kg to low Earth orbit.
After Firefly's corporate reorganization, Alpha was redesigned. The vehicle now uses two stages, both 1.8 m in diameter, filled with RP-1/LOX propellant. The main body of the rocket is constructed using a lightweight carbon composite material.
Alpha's first stage is powered by four Reaver 1 LOX / RP-1 engines, delivering 736.1 kN (165,500 lbf) of thrust. The second stage is powered by one Lightning 1 LOX / RP-1 engine, delivering 70.1 kN (15,800 lbf) of thrust. Lightning 1 was test-run for nearly 5 minutes on March 15, 2018 during a long duration test fire. The engine was fired at Firefly's Test Stand 1 in Briggs, Texas.
The Alpha airframe uses all carbon-fiber composite material in its construction. Using carbon-fiber makes the rocket more fuel efficient because the use of denser materials like titanium and aluminum would result in a heavier airframe, which would require more fuel to launch.
In March 2018, Firefly said that the development of Alpha was expected to cost approximately $100 million.
Alpha is designed to launch a 1,000 kg payload to a 200 km low Earth orbit, or a 600 kg payload to a 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit, suitable for CubeSats and other small payloads. Primary payloads can be integrated by themselves or with a secondary payload, with capacity for up to 6 CubeSats. This allows Firefly's customers to have a dedicated small-satellite launcher, reducing the issues of ride-sharing payloads and secondary payloads. These smaller satellites can have an orbit that is not determined by a larger payload and can launch on their own schedule instead of waiting on the readiness of all other payloads.
Firefly Aerospace plans to use a Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) to integrate payloads.
As of 2018[update] Firefly Aerospace plans to use Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-2W to support the launches of both Alpha and future launches of Beta, which formerly launched Delta, Thor-Agena rockets, and Delta II rockets. Additionally they are planning on operating at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station SLC-20.
|Date / time (UTC)||Rocket,
|NET April 2021||Firefly Alpha||Vandenberg SLC-2W||BSS1, CRESST DREAM COMET, Firefly Capsule 1, PICOBUS (deploying six PocketQubes), Hiapo, NPS-CENETIX-Orbital 1, Spinnaker3, and TIS Serenity||300 km circular, 97° inclination||Benchmark Space, University of Cambridge, Firefly, Fossa Systems, Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, AT&T/NPS, Purdue University, Teachers in Space, Inc., and others.|
|Maiden flight of the Firefly Alpha; will carry various payloads as part of their DREAM mission.|
|Q2 2021||Firefly Alpha||Vandenberg SLC-2W||Carbonite 4||SSTL|
|Carbonite is an Earth observation microsatellite (~100 kg) technology demonstrator.|
|Q3 2021||Firefly Alpha||Vandenberg SLC-2W||TBA||SSTL|
|2021||Firefly Alpha||Vandenberg SLC-2W||Dedicated rideshare mission||Spaceflight Industries|
|Dedicated smallsat rideshare mission to low Earth orbit.|
|2022||Firefly Alpha||Vandenberg SLC-2W||EOS SAR 1||EOS Data Analytics|
|First EOS SAR radar constellation satellite.|
|2022||Firefly Alpha||Vandenberg SLC-2W||OTB-2 / MAIA||GA-EMS / JPL|
|Orbital Test Bed 2 (OTB-2) hosts the MAIA instrument for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.|
|2022||Firefly Alpha||Vandenberg SLC-2W||Satlantis EO Constellation||Satlantis|
|Satlantis earth observation satellite constellation.|
|Early 2024||Firefly Beta||Vandenberg SLC-2W||TBA||TBA|
|Maiden flight of the Firefly Beta|
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The second and third Alpha rockets are already under construction for their missions in 2021. The nominal mission sequence calls for each of the first three rockets to fly about three months after its immediate predecessor.
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