Rocket builder Firefly resuming launch operations, raises $75 million
On September 2, 2021, the company’s first Alpha rocket launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
WASHINGTON – Firefly Aerospace aims to make its second attempt to reach orbit with its Alpha rocket in the coming weeks, having received government approval to resume launch operations after a controversial investor sold his stake.
CNBC spoke with Tom Markusic, Firefly’s CEO. He said that Firefly worked “methodically and cooperatively” with the government to complete the divestment as well as add security protocols to the company.
Markusic stated that the move was completed and the company has now “full access” to its facilities for launch. Firefly’s second Alpha rocket will be transported from Austin, Texas to California by Firefly. The company hopes to launch the rocket as soon as possible.
Markusic stated to CNBC that launching the website will take eight weeks.
Last month, AE Industrial Partners, a private equity firm, purchased a stake in Firefly’s Noosphere Ventures fund. Max Polyakov was a Ukrainian software entrepreneur, and came under investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in America (CFIUS) for potential national security issues. Uncertain is the reason for Polyakov’s government concerns. Polyakov claimed that his fascination in Firefly was motivated by his desire to protect the technology from Russia. according to Bloomberg.
Firefly was unable to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The operation was stopped by the government until Polyakov sold its 50% share. It was only a month ago that Russia invaded Ukraine.
Firefly closed a fundraise of $75 million led by AE Industrial Partners. Markusic claims this means that the larger growth plan for Firefly is now “fully funded.”
Kirk Konert from AEI stated that Firefly’s investment and stake in it was due to its view of the company being a leader in the rocket industry.
Konert stated that Firefly “is going to emerge as a leader in this class within the launch marketplace,” and added that Spacefly was “taking a wider view about space transport” through its efforts toward Beta, a bigger rocket, and a trans-vehicle vehicle.
Konert did not specify Firefly’s current valuation after the funding round. However, he said that the valuation represents an increase in comparison to the previous valuation of the company at $1 billion in May 2021.
Firefly’s Alpha rocket, which stands 95 feet tall, is designed to launch as much as 1,000 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit – at a price of $15 million per launch. Firefly is now in the medium-lift category, which puts it up against other rocket companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, ABL Space and Relativity Space.
Firefly launched its Alpha rocket for the first time in September, but the attempt to reach orbit failed mid-flight. One of the rocket’s four engines shut down due to an electrical connection failure, a problem Markusic said “was sort of a fluke”And was “very simple to resolve.”
Markusic explained that “Flight 2 is really the same as flight 1.” “We are certain that this will never happen again,” Markusic said.
Two months from the launch of its second Alpha mission, NASA’s third Alpha mission is planned.
Firefly plans to use the new funding to fund more Alpha rocket launches, further develop its larger rocket Beta, finance its Blue Ghost lunar lander, and continue work on a space utility vehicle – also known as a “space tug” — to transport satellites into unique orbits after a launch. Firefly has received a NASA contract worth $93 million to transport payloads to lunar surface by 2023.