Firefly, a Rocket Manufacturer, Succeeds on its first Mission, Marking an important turning point
Firefly Aerospace has reached orbit for the first time, reaching a critical stage in launching its business.
Washington: The rocket maker, Firefly Aerospace, reached orbit for the first time this weekend, the company’s CEO said, reaching a critical point in launching its business and opening up new financing opportunities for growth.
Firefly, based near Austin, Texas, launched its two-stage Alpha rocket in the predawn hours of Saturday from a US Space Force base.
“Saturday morning, everything changed for this company,” Bill Webber, Firefly’s chief executive, told Reuters. “This was a test flight, and we tried to keep our enthusiasm up.”
Alpha’s Firefly joins an increasingly competitive launch market. It became the fifth private US type of rocket to reach orbit since 2008, after Elon Musk’s private SpaceX Falcon 9 and rockets from public companies Rocket Lab USA, Virgin Orbit Holdings, and Astra Space Inc.
The success of the mission comes after years of struggle, including the 2017 bankruptcy declaration by Ukrainian businessman Max Polyakov, Noosphere Ventures. US national security concerns forced Noosphere to sell its largest stake to private equity giant AE Industrial Partners earlier this year, ending a months-long crisis that crippled Firefly’s launch business.
AEI led a Series B funding round that generated $75 million for Firefly in March.
The company, which sells the Alpha for roughly $15 million per launch, has six missions planned in 2023 and 12 in 2024.
Webber said Saturday’s mission could allow raising more money to finish building the manufacturing facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida, home to Alpha’s planned second launch pad. It could also accelerate the development of the MLV, a larger rocket the company plans to build with Northrop Grumman.
Webber suggested that the company could explore another round of fundraising, but rejected the idea of going public. He said Firefly is focusing on the private development of the Alpha product line, the MLV missile, and its new, more powerful engine.
Weber said that if Firefly goes for another special raise, it will indicate that the company’s cash flow is positive and it will be “the last increase this company needs to make.”
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