Firefly Aerospace successfully launched a satellite for the U.S. Space Force last night with just 24 hours’ notice, in a record-setting demonstration of rapid launch capabilities for national security missions.
The Space Force gave Firefly notice to launch on September 13, at which point the 24-hour clock started ticking. Within that window, Firefly managed to complete final launch preparations, update the flight software trajectory, encapsulate the Millennium Space Systems-made payload and mate it to the Firefly Alpha rocket.
The company launched the Victus Nox mission at the first available window, with Alpha leaving the pad just 27 hours after the launch notice was received.
“Today was an incredible success for the Space Force, the Firefly team, and our nation after nailing this complex responsive space mission,” Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace, said in a statement. “Our combined commercial and government team executed the mission with record speed, agility, and flexibility, adding a critical capability to address national security needs.”
The mission sets a new record among commercial space companies for a responsive space launch, by quite a large margin -- the previous record was set in June 2021 by Northrop Grumman at 21 days. Notably, this is only the third mission in Firefly’s nine-year history.
Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing-subsidiary, was also successful in their own challenge: As part of the mission, they had 60 hours to transport the spacecraft 165 miles from El Segundo, California to Vandenberg Space Force Base and integrate it with Alpha’s payload adaptor. They completed this work in 58 hours.
“The success of Victus Nox marks a culture shift in our nation’s ability to deter adversary aggression and, when required, respond with the operational speed necessary to deliver decisive capabilities to our warfighters,” Space Systems Command commander Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein said. “This exercise is part of an end-to-end Tactically Responsive Space demonstration which proves the United States Space Force can rapidly integrate capabilities and will respond to aggression when called to do so on tactically relevant timelines.”
Space Systems Command, part of the Space Force, is tasked with developing and procuring space technologies for national security. The Space Force has had a sustained interest in buying rapid launch capabilities from private industry; for this mission, Firefly was awarded $17.6 million.