Firefly Aerospace has secured the use of Space Launch Complex 2 West (SLC-2W) at Vandenberg Air Force Base to launch their Firefly Alpha rockets. The small launch provider will take over the launchpad from United Launch Alliance who have used it to launch their soon to be retired Delta II rocket.
“Firefly Aerospace is greatly appreciative that NASA and the USAF support the transition of SLC-2W to a commercial launch site dedicated to the launch of Firefly vehicles,” said Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic in a statement published on the company’s website. “SLC-2W has been an incredible asset for US space missions for over 50 years. We are humbled and honored that Firefly Alpha and Beta launch vehicles will be adding many successful missions to the already storied history of SLC-2W.”
The Firefly Alpha (written as Firefly α) rocket is a small launch vehicle capable of deploying 1,000 kilograms into a Low Earth Orbit and 600 kilograms into a Sun-Synchronous Orbit. Once operational, the provider hopes to have a launch cadence of between 2 and 12 Alpha launches a year. Firefly Aerospace also have an iterative upgrade of the Alpha, the Beta that features two additional first-stage boosters much like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.
Firefly Aerospace will utilise SLC-2W for Sun-Synchronous Orbit launches. The provider is currently evaluating several other options for Low Earth Orbit launches including Cape Canaveral and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.
Although securing SLC-2W is a huge step for Firefly Aerospace, the budding launch provider has already suffered several setbacks and still has a number of challenges to overcome.
In March 2017, Firefly Space Systems filed for bankruptcy. The failed company’s assets were purchased and the company rebranded as Firefly Aerospace. The company’s new management almost immediately decided to forgo the Alpha’s first-stage aerospike engine configuration in favour of a pump-fed engine. Although simplifying the design, the change pushed the rocket’s development back by at least a year.
Firefly Aerospace hopes to launch their first Alpha rocket towards the end of 2019.
Featured Image Credit: Firefly Aerospace