Firefly and Aerojet Enter Partnership for Development of New Launch Vehicle

Firefly and Aerojet Enter Partnership for Development of New Launch Vehicle

Aerojet will be providing support in the development across multiple areas of the launch vehicle, one being additive manufacturing. The head end of the Reaver engine that shall power the first stage of the Alpha rocket is a machined and welded structure that can be challenging to build

Fremont, CA: Small launch vehicle company Firefly Aerospace and jet propulsion company Aerojet Rocketdyne entered into a partnership in which Firefly will make use of Aerojet's AR1 engine to propel Firefly's Beta medium-class rocket. The AR1 engine was initially designed for potential use by United Launch Alliance's next-generation Vulcan Vehicle. The companies will also collaborate on the development of Firefly's Alpha Launch Vehicle, set to make its first flight in early 2020.

Aerojet will be providing support in the development across multiple areas of the launch vehicle, one being additive manufacturing. The head end of the Reaver engine that shall power the first stage of the Alpha rocket is a machined and welded structure that can be challenging to build. Aerojet will assist in the manufacturing of this part using additive manufacturing. “Right now, Aerojet is helping us with that. They are printing the entire head end of the Reaver rocket engine,” said Tom Markusic, chief executive of Firefly. "That's going to make it lighter weight, simpler, lower-cost to build. As we speak today, parts are rolling out as part of this collaboration."

Currently, under development, the Alpha first stage will use four Reaver engines. The company is moving towards the qualification tests of the stage for all four engines and is scheduled to conduct tests in mid-November. The company expects to make its first orbital launch attempt by February or March next year, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Firefly is also looking to make use of Aerojet's expertise in propulsion techniques. Firefly has been developing an Orbital Transfer Vehicle to enable satellites launched on Alpha to reach higher orbits. “Aerojet Rocketdyne has a whole corral of amazing in-space propulsion options, including both chemical thrusters and Hall thrusters for electric propulsion. That could be utilized on our OTV,” Markusic said. However, both companies have made it clear that the centrepiece of the agreement will remain the AR1 engine for the Firefly Beta rocket.

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