Firefly and Aerojet To Develop New Launch Vehicle
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Firefly and Aerojet To Develop New Launch Vehicle

By Manufacturing Technology Insights | Friday, November 22, 2019

Firefly is, in addition, looking to employ Aerojet’s expertise in propulsion techniques. The firm has been developing an Orbital Transfer Vehicle to facilitate satellites launched on Alpha to reach higher orbits.

FREMONT, CA: A spaceflight company, Firefly Aerospace, and jet propulsion company Aerojet Rocketdyne entered into a joint venture in which Firefly will make use of Aerojet’s AR1 engine to propel Firefly’s Beta medium-class rocket. The AR1 engine was designed for prospective use by United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan Vehicle. The businesses will also collaborate on the expansion of Firefly’s Alpha Launch Vehicle, set to make its first flight in early 2020. 

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Aerojet will be offering support in the growth across several areas of the launch vehicle, one being additive manufacturing. The head of the Reaver engine that powers the first stage of the Alpha rocket is a welded and machined structure that can be tricky to put together. Aerojet will help in the manufacturing of the 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.”

At present, under development, the Alpha first stage is making use of four Reaver engines. The business is turning toward the qualification tests of the phase for all four. Additionally, the company expects to make its initial orbital launch attempt by February or March 2020, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Firefly is, in addition, looking to employ Aerojet’s expertise in propulsion techniques. The firm has been developing an Orbital Transfer Vehicle to facilitate 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 centerpiece of the agreement will remain the AR1 engine for the Firefly Beta rocket.

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