In 2019, American companies reached crucial milestones on the path towards launching small satellites. Firefly Aerospace and Virgin Orbit both secured partnerships and accomplished test objectives ahead of their respective rockets’ first flights this year. Concurrently, Rocket Lab improved its launch cadence and began evolving their Electron rocket as they look towards expanding their capabilities in 2020.
Texas-based Firefly Aerospace is gearing up for the debut of the Alpha rocket, scheduled for the first quarter of 2020. The mission will lift off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the pad which formerly supported the United Launch Alliance’s Delta II rocket.
The final step in Alpha’s development before launch is currently underway, with a complete first stage installed on Test Stand 2 for qualification testing. The integrated stage, including four of Firefly’s Reaver engines, will complete a hotfire testing series concluding with multiple full mission duty cycle tests lasting 165 seconds each.
Check out the Firefly Alpha engine bay! There are 4 Reaver engines on the first stage which generate 165,500 lbf of thrust, allowing Alpha to deliver 1,000 kg of payload to low LEO and 630 kg to 500 km SSO. #Firefly #MakingSpaceForEveryone #FullAttack! pic.twitter.com/QbR8ykWxTT