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Satnews Daily
October 20th, 2019

Firefly Aerospace and Aerojet Rocketdyne Come Together for Space Access Solutions

Aerojet Rocketdyne and Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly) now have a cooperative agreement that combines the capabilities of both companies to provide flexible, sustainable and highly competitive space access solutions.

The companies will serve the growing government and commercial market by providing dedicated small and medium launch capabilities to LEO, GEO and the Moon. This collaboration will leverage Firefly’s new family of launch vehicles and in-space services with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s experience in propulsion development, additive manufacturing and mission assurance for commercial, national security and exploration missions.

Artistic rendition of the Firefly Alpha rocket following first stage separation. Image is courtesy of the company.

The first flight of Firefly’s small-satellite rocket, Alpha, is scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2020 from Vandenberg AFB. At a dedicated mission price of $15 million, Alpha is currently capable of delivering one metric ton to LEO and 630 kg. to SSO. Aerojet Rocketdyne is contributing to the first flight of Alpha by providing additive manufacturing expertise for key Reaver first stage engine components. They will have increased influence on Alpha block two upgrades, on both the first and second stage engines, which will work toward an increased Alpha SSO payload performance to greater than 800 kg. These contributions will include expanded implementation of additively manufactured elements to reduce cost and increase reliability, as well as technical input to increase engine performance.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s unique additive manufacturing, chemical and electric in-space propulsion technologies also have direct applicability to Firefly’s Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV), which transfers small payloads between orbits. The OTV provides mission flexibility by deploying payloads into unique orbits and reaching altitudes and inclinations that are out of reach for many small launch vehicles.

Citing threats to U.S. space capabilities, senior defense officials have emphasized the need to shift toward space architectures that use smaller spacecraft that can be developed and launched quickly. Offerings from Firefly supported by Aerojet Rocketdyne are ideal to meet these evolving national security requirements.

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake said that strategic alignment with Firefly will offer very competitive solutions to address emerging launch market demands. The company will take advantage of Firefly’s mature launch vehicle designs, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s advanced propulsion systems and the world-class technological capabilities of both companies. In particular, Firefly and Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide services to meet emerging national security space requirements.

Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic added that the company is excited to work with Aerojet Rocketdyne under this new collaborative agreement because of their extensive experience and the unique mission solutions they offer. Combined with Firefly's already mature Alpha design, this cooperation with Aerojet Rocketdyne is a significant differentiator in the small to medium launch vehicle market and will enable rapid performance increases of the Alpha vehicle. Dr. Markusic then added that Firefly is committed to flying Beta, the firm's medium class launch vehicle. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 engine, which incorporates the latest advances in propulsion technology, materials science and manufacturing techniques, is incredibly well suited to power Beta given its cost-effective, high performance capabilities. By cooperating on this development, the firm is accelerating time to market and providing customers with high confidence in Beta’s schedule, performance and reliability.