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Firefly successfully completes first orbital launch of its Alpha rocket

Alpha 1:48 into flight

Capitalism in space: Firefly, a company that just two years ago had gone into bankruptcy, tonight successfully launched their new Alpha rocket into orbit on its second test launch. The screen capture to the right shows the rocket 1:48 minutes into flight, its first stage still firing.

A final 2nd stage engine burn has completed, and we now have confirmation of deployment of the payload satellites. My sources tell me that the second stage under-performed, putting the satellites into a 223x283km orbit, rather than the planned 300km orbit, which will shorten the lifespan of the smallsats. As this was a test launch, not an operational one, this issue does not to my mind make the launch a failure.They reached orbit and the satellites were successfully deployed.

Thus, Firefly now joins SpaceX, Rocket Lab, ULA, Virgin Orbit, and Northrop Grumman as an operational American commercial rocket companies. Astra had been operational, but it has stepped down as it builds a new rocket.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

43 SpaceX
41 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 61 to 41 in the national rankings, and is tied with the entire world combined, 61 to 61.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Concerned

    I still don’t see what innovation an/or cost savings Firefly brings to the table that will allow it to win customers. Unless they’re embracing full reusability (that only makes fiscal sense with chemical propulsion if you scale up the size) or somehow can manufacture and operate these things significantly cheaper, I can’t see how they will compete.

  • Joe

    Firefly’s Alpha is built for rapid manufacture. Of course they need to get out of the R&D phase first. Once you have an assembly line, things get better from a financial perspective. The issue will be if they can lure enough business to them. I am hoping they can do that.

  • “Take me out
    To the Black
    Tell’em I ain’t comin’ back.”

  • Edward

    Several factors are involved in addition to the price to the customer. The launch capacity can be important to customers that have heavier payloads. Rocket Lab’s electron can take 300 kg to low Earth orbit (LEO) but Alpha can take 1,170 kg.

    Availability is important. A launcher that can only fly every other year (e.g. SLS) may be less desirable than one that launches every week (as is the goal of several launch companies). Customers who have to wait a long time for a launch may turn to another launch provider.

    Fairing size can be just as important as the mass capacity. If the payload does not fit within the fairing, that is not the right rocket for the customer.

    I hope you can give us a white paper report on how your satellite performs.

  • GaryMike


    F yeah.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Jeff Bezos is doing the math on his orbital launch services….

    “Ten Percent Of Nothin’ Is… Let Me Do The Math Here… Nothin’, And Then Nothin’, Carry The Nothing…”

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