Firefly has announced that they have received the AS9100 Quality Certification. This will allow Firefly to move from the development phase to the production phase as Firefly is getting ready for the maiden flight of the Alpha rocket.
Firefly passed all of the quality requirements in order to receive the AS9100 Quality Certification. The AS9100 certification is a quality management practice that is widely used and standardized across the entire aerospace industry.
Firefly has required all suppliers to be AS9100 certified to ensure quality assurance, as qualification test begins for full production capabilities.
“Our AS9100 certification marks a key milestone in the maturation of Firefly as we move from development into the production phase of the Alpha launch vehicle. We are well-positioned to take on new contracts and development opportunities,” said Dr. Tom Markusic, Firefly CEO. “At Firefly, we blend heritage-space principles used to achieve high reliability with NewSpace nimbleness and flexibility, allowing us to rapidly develop economical and high-quality products.”
Firefly will use its AS2100 certified quality assurance program to support a wide range of Spacecraft, including the Alpha and Beta launch vehicle, Genesis Lunar Lander, and the Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV).
“This important AS9100 certification formalizes the strict focus on quality that Firefly has always demanded of itself and its suppliers and partners,” noted Paul Garland, Firefly’s Director of Quality Assurance, who has nearly 35 years of experience driving quality operations for leading aerospace companies. “Firefly’s certified quality processes provide further assurance to our commercial and government customers that we will successfully execute their critical space missions.”
The Alpha launch vehicle is Firefly’s first but smallest rocket. Designed to get 1 metric ton to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or 630 kilograms to a 500 kilometer Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).
Alpha is a two-stage rocket that uses four Reaver 1 engines on its first stage. The engines run on RP-1/LOX and can generate 736.1 kN (165,482 IBF) of thrust. The second stage uses one Lightning 1 engine that also runs on RP-1/LOX and generates 70.1 kN (15,759 IBF).
Alpha is designed to be a primary/rideshare payload rocket. It can take a larger primary payload to orbit then separate an OTV which can take multiple secondary payloads to their desired orbit. The OTV can take payloads to an orbit unreachable by other launch vehicles and be used as a host platform for payloads.
Firefly also has a larger rocket called Beta. Like the Delta IV Heavy and Falcon Heavy, it has three first-stage cores strapped together. It will have a thrust of 2,208 kN (496,378 IBF) with all 12 Reaver engines firing. The second stage is an extended Alpha second stage and uses the Lighting 2 engine which will have a thrust of 163 kN (35,643 IBF). The Beta can take 4,000 kg payload to LEO, 3,000 kg to SSO, and the capability to take a payload to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
In October of 2019, Firefly Partnered with Aerojet Rocketdyne to increase performance in the Alpha and possibly use the AR-1 engine for the Beta rocket. The Beta will first launch in the 2021-2022 time frame.
Soon Firefly will start the development of their next vehicle Gamma. A reusable rocket-powered orbital spaceplane. Designed to be versatile it can be launched from the air or the ground and can land on a runway at an airport. It will use two aerospike engines and then a vacuum optimized cross-fed second stage to take it to orbit. The Gamma will have its first launch in the mid-2020s.
Firefly is also entering the lunar lander market. Firefly partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to continue the development of SpaceIL’s Beresheet lunar lander. Called Genesis, -Genesis is the English translation of Beresheet- the lander is apart of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services. It will use the lessons learned from the Beresheet lander and will have its first mission in Q4 of 2022.
Firefly has leased two launch sites from the Air Force for the Alpha and Beta rocket. Space Launch Complex (SLC)-2W at Vandenberg Air Force Base which was used for the Thor and Delta rockets, -it was the place the final Delta II launched from- it can allow Firefly to reach Polar and SSO orbits.
The second pad is SLC-20 at Cape Canaveral Airforce Station which was used for the Titan rockets but only had a few numbers of launches, it can allow low inclination orbits that can allow payloads to GTO and to the moon.
The maiden flight of the Alpha rocket will take place in mid-2020 at SLC-2W with multiple payloads to orbit. With multiple customers including Spaceflight Inc. -who recently signed a multi-satellite launch contract with Firefly- and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, Firefly has a large launch manifest to allow many launches for many years
When Firefly reaches orbit it will be the second time a private smallsat launch provider to reach orbit, after Rocket Lab. Rocket Lab has launched 11 times with the 12th time called “Don’t Stop Me Now” with the ELaNa 32 mission and multiple payloads on May 15th.
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