Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
US Space Force Tests Rapid Launch Capability with Firefly’s Victus Nox Satellite

The US military has been urging satellite and launch companies to enhance their “responsive” capabilities in order to quickly replace spacecraft during conflicts. As part of this effort, the US Space Force initiated the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) mission two years ago to demonstrate its ability to rapidly launch small satellites. The mission was a success, as the satellite was built and launched within 21 days.

Continuing their pursuit of responsive launches, the US Space Force recently contracted with Firefly, a US launch company, to deploy the “Victus Nox” spacecraft into orbit within 24 hours of receiving the go-ahead command. After entering the “hot standby phase” in August, Firefly and satellite-maker Millennium Space Systems waited for the launch command. On Wednesday, the Space Force gave the green light, and Firefly successfully launched the encapsulated satellite using its Alpha rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base. The entire process, from command to liftoff, took 27 hours, surpassing the previous records.

According to Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, commander of Space Systems Command, the success of the Victus Nox mission signifies a culture shift in the nation’s ability to deter aggression and respond swiftly to provide decisive capabilities to warfighters. The US Space Force aims to activate the spacecraft within 48 hours of reaching its orbit.

This launch is a significant achievement for Firefly, which had encountered failures in its previous attempts. The company plans to increase production of the Alpha rocket, which has a payload capacity of about 1 metric ton to low-Earth orbit, and intends to launch several cubesats for NASA in the near future. Firefly’s success positions the Alpha rocket as the first commercially developed US rocket capable of delivering such a payload.

In the competition with other commercial rockets, Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket experienced an engine failure during its first flight, and ABL Space’s RS1 vehicle failed shortly after liftoff. Firefly’s triumph opens up opportunities for further development and missions, making them a key player in the rapidly evolving space industry.