Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha Rocket Successfully Launches U.S. Space Force’s Tactically Responsive Space Demonstration

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket has successfully launched the U.S. Space Force’s second operational tactically responsive space demonstration, setting a record for flying within 27 hours of receiving launch orders. The mission, called Victus Nox, aimed to showcase the ability to rapidly acquire, build, integrate, and launch a satellite. The spacecraft was built by Boeing subsidiary Millennium Space Systems and was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The Space Force’s Space Safari program office led the demonstration in collaboration with the Rocket Systems Launch Program. Now that the satellite is in orbit, the team will work to begin its operations within 48 hours.

The Space Force selected Firefly and Millennium to conduct the mission in 2022. Last month, the companies entered a “hot standby” phase, indicating that the launch window could open at any time. During this phase, the satellite was moved from Millennium’s facility in El Segundo, California, to Vandenberg, where it was tested, fueled, and mated to its launch adapter in less than 58 hours. This process typically takes weeks or months for a standard launch.

The Space Force aims to establish an enduring responsive space capability as early as 2026. This capability would allow for the quick launch of satellites to respond to threats in orbit, augment degraded or destroyed systems, or have ready-to-launch satellites on the ground as needed.

This mission is the Space Force’s second tactically responsive space demonstration, with the first taking place in 2021 on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket. The service is currently planning for a third launch, working with the Defense Innovation Unit on an effort called Victus Haze, which will focus on end-to-end execution using commercial capabilities.

This successful launch marks the third flight for Firefly’s Alpha rocket. The company is now preparing for upcoming missions for NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, Lockheed Martin, and other customers. Firefly’s Vice President of Launch Vehicles, Adam Oakes, expressed confidence in the company’s technology and dedication to becoming a leading responsive launch provider for both government and commercial customers.

Note: The article has been reformatted with paragraphs to improve readability.