This acquisition marks an important milestone for Firefly as it broadens its horizons by incorporating satellite transportation services into its existing repertoire of launch vehicles and spacecraft.
The objective behind Firefly’s acquisition of Spaceflight is to enhance its capabilities and offer comprehensive space transportation services to its customers. By combining forces with Spaceflight, Firefly aims to provide end-to-end solutions, integrating its Alpha launch vehicle, Blue Ghost lunar lander, and Space Utility Vehicle transfer vehicle into a seamless space transportation system.
Bill Weber, the Chief Executive of Firefly, expressed enthusiasm about this strategic move and emphasized that the acquisition aligns with the company’s vision for organic growth and strategic partnerships.
“This acquisition is the result of Firefly’s business plan to strengthen the company through organic growth in addition to accelerating its capabilities with strategic acquisitions”.—Bill Weber, Chief Executive – Firefly
The exact terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed by the companies involved. However, Firefly spokesperson Risa Schnautz confirmed to SpaceNews that the deal has already been finalized, underscoring the commitment of both parties to this strategic endeavor.
Spaceflight Inc.’s Expertise and Innovative Solutions
Spaceflight Inc., previously owned by a joint partnership between Japanese companies Mitsui & Co. and Yamasa Co., has established itself as a leader in coordinating the launch of small satellites on various platforms.
Subsequently, after Spaceflight Industries spun off its rideshare launch business, it transformed into Spaceflight Inc. and appointed Tiphaine Louradour, the former president of International Launch Services, as its chief executive.
Known for its innovative orbital transfer vehicles named Sherpa, which utilize a combination of chemical and electric propulsion systems, Spaceflight has facilitated the deployment of more than 460 payloads.
Over the years, it has developed strong partnerships with numerous launch providers. While it faced challenges with one of its major partners, SpaceX, Firefly intends to exclusively utilize Spaceflight’s services in conjunction with its own vehicles moving forward.
Assessing the needs of their combined customer base, Firefly plans to ensure a smooth transition for ongoing contracts while focusing on utilizing Spaceflight’s expertise to meet future mission requirements.
“We’re currently assessing the needs of our combined customers to meet their mission requirements with Firefly’s launch vehicles”, Schnautz explained to SpaceNews. Furthermore, Firefly expressed its commitment to honoring existing contracts but will no longer aggregate payloads on other launch vehicles.
Firefly’s Positioning and Future Plans
The acquisition of Spaceflight positions Firefly as a key player in the on-orbit services and rapid response missions market. This strategic move allows Firefly to promptly cater to its customers’ needs, leveraging their high demand for immediate solutions.
“With a high market demand for our on-orbit services and rapid response missions, this acquisition uniquely positions Firefly to respond immediately to our customers’ needs”.—Bill Weber, Chief Executive – Firefly
As part of the acquisition, the entire workforce of Spaceflight, consisting of approximately 90 employees, will join the Firefly team. In the upcoming months, Firefly will assess talent, define roles, and allocate responsibilities to maximize the potential of the combined workforce.
Firefly Aerospace itself underwent a change in ownership in 2022 when AE Industrial Partners (AEI) acquired the company.
Particularly, this transition occurred after Ukrainian entrepreneur Max Polyakov, who had acquired the assets of the former Firefly Space Systems in 2017, was compelled by the federal government to divest his stake. Following the acquisition, AEI injected $75 million into Firefly in March 2022 and appointed Bill Weber as the chief executive in September.
Firefly’s Ongoing Projects and Future Endeavors
In addition to the acquisition news, Firefly is actively preparing for the third launch of its Alpha rocket, which forms part of a tactically responsive launch demonstration for the Space Force.
This mission involves the deployment of a satellite named Victus-Nox and requires the rocket to be ready for launch within a mere 24-hour notice, again showcasing Firefly’s commitment to rapid response capabilities.
Furthermore, Firefly established a partnership with Northrop Grumman in August 2022 with the aim of jointly developing a new first stage for Northrop’s Antares rocket. In particular, this collaboration involves utilizing engines that Firefly is currently developing.
The proposed vehicle, designated MLV, will be presented to the Space Force as part of its National Security Space Launch Phase 3 competition.
Moreover, on the lunar front, Firefly has secured two NASA awards through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. These awards enable Firefly to undertake lunar lander missions using its Blue Ghost lander. The first mission is scheduled for 2024, while the second, awarded to Firefly in March, involves deploying a spacecraft into lunar orbit and landing on the far side of the moon in 2026.
With the acquisition of Spaceflight Inc., Firefly Aerospace is poised to expand its presence in the space industry, providing a comprehensive suite of launch vehicles, spacecraft, and satellite transportation services.
Lastly, this strategic move clearly propels Firefly toward its vision of becoming a leader in the rapidly evolving and demanding space market.