Firefly Aerospace successfully launched an Alpha rocket into orbit for the first time
Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket successfully reached orbit after launching from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Saturday. The launch was announced as a “100% mission success” in placing a payload of three satellites into orbit, making it “the first company to launch and reach orbit from US soil in only its second attempt,” according to Firefly, reports The Verge.
Firefly Aerospace is a private space company that develops launch systems for commercial customers. It is associated with the Ukrainian entrepreneur Max Polyakov, who is the co-founder of Firefly and has invested more than $200 million in the project, but under pressure from the US government sold his stake to another co-founder, Thomas Markusic, for $1.
At the end of November last year, Polyakov received a letter from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, citing national security concerns and requiring Polyakov and his investment firm Noosphere Venture Partners to sell approximately 50% of Firefly, which they did.
We remind that at that time representatives of the US government and aerospace industry spoke out against Polyakov’s control over the company due to fears that valuable technologies could end up in Ukraine, Russia, or other countries that are trying to develop missile programs. So far, there is no information on whether their position has changed after the start of a full-scale Russian war against Ukraine and the increased support of the Ukrainian government and military by the United States.
It is worth noting that the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle is capable of launching a payload weighing 745 kg into a sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 500 km or a larger payload into low Earth orbit. Onboard the successful Firefly Alpha flight were three small satellites, the largest of which (PicoBus from the Libre Space Foundation) weighed just under 6.4 kg. PicoBus itself contains six picosatellites that will test the world’s first completely free and open-source telecommunications constellation.
Additional payloads include NASA’s TechEdSat-15, a three-block CubeSat satellite carrying experiments for TechEdSat’s nano-orbital workshop, and Serenity, an educational Cube satellite created by Teachers in Space that is designed to collect basic flight data. Firefly is currently preparing Alpha for its third launch on November 29, 2022, with six more launches planned for 2023.