Firefly will launch a Millennium Space Systems satellite for the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) to provide launch services for the VICTUS NOX responsive space mission.
The goal of the program is to demonstrate the United States' capability to rapidly respond to on-orbit needs during a conflict or in response to a national security threat.
In preparation for the mission, Millennium Space Systems will be notified when a 60-hour window opens to get the satellite from Los Angeles to Vandenberg Space Force Base. Teams will then be on standby before the launch phase when Space Force gives the companies 24 hours to get the rocket and satellite to space.
Firefly’s Alpha vehicle will deploy a Millennium Space Systems satellite. Once on orbit, the satellite will conduct a space domain awareness mission.
Height: 29 m (95 ft)
Diameter: 1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)
Mass: 54,000 kg (119,000 lb)
The first flight of the Firefly Alpha carried various payloads as part of their DREAM mission. Due to an engine failure approximately 15 seconds after the launch, the rocket lost control at a transonic speed approximately two and a half minutes into flight which resulted in the activation of the flight termination system and loss of the vehicle.
The "To The Black" mission was the second flight of Alpha its first partially successful orbital launch, carrying educational payloads, including a hosted payload, Firefly Capsule 2. Alpha deployed 7 satellites, however, due to the lower-than-intended deployment orbit, most of the satellites re-entered before reaching their intended design life a week after launch.
Alpha is 100% manufactured in the USA and designed to be the most reliable small satellite launcher available. Alpha’s pump-fed, regeneratively-cooled engines use standard LOx/RP, and our avionics systems, such as the flight computer and communication system, employ COTS components with established flight heritage.
Modern advances in carbon composite materials are used to create strong, lightweight primary structures such as propellant tanks. Entirely manufactured and launched in the USA, we’re able to keep costs to a minimum while achieving unprecedented dependability.
Alpha utilizes well-established propulsion technology. Both stages use common designs: copper regen-cooled LOx/RP-1 thrust chambers, a simple tap-off cycle that drives single shaft turbopumps, nozzle-mounted turbine exhaust manifolds, and hydraulic actuators. Innovations in Firefly engines include our simple “Crossfire” injector, tap-off geometry, dual-mounted electrically actuated, trimmable propellant main valves, and ultra-compact horizontal turbopump mounting.
The upper stage engine, “Lightning,” includes a turbine-exhaust cooled refractory metal high area ratio nozzle extension.
The first stage “Reaver” engines feature simple single axis gimballing. Consistent with the overall Alpha vehicle design, cost and performance are traded and optimized in Lightning and Reaver components to provide the best payload performance value.
Firefly utilizes advanced carbon-fiber composites for the entire airframe of Alpha, including the state-of-the-art, linerless, cryogenic propellant tanks. Composite materials are ideally suited to launch vehicle structures due to their high strength, low density and tailorable material properties. This allows Firefly Alpha to lift heavier payloads than a similar metal rocket.
Firefly Avionics hardware utilizes a combination of custom designed state-of-the-art and Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) components.
Data Acquisition is accomplished using a rugged, modular Data Acquisition Chassis, which provides analog to digital conversion of all sensor data, and further packages the data and transmits to the Flight Computer via an onboard Ethernet network.
The Flight Computer incorporates all vehicle telemetry and transmits data along with video to various Earth ground stations along the flight trajectory, for the duration of the flight.
Photo: Tom Cross for Supercluster
SLC-2W is being repurposed to launch the Firefly Alpha.
Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) is an active rocket launch site at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, USA.
This launch complex consists of two launch pads. The East pad (SLC-2E) was used for Delta, Thor-Agena and Thorad launches between 1966 and 1972 and has since been demolished.
The West pad (SLC-2W) where Firefly will be launching from, was used for Delta, Thor-Agena and Delta II launches from 1966 until 2018, when the Delta II performed its last flight.
Photo Credit: Tom Cross for Supercluster