Firefly Aerospace's Alpha rocket, rendered launching from Wallops Island, Virginia

Firefly Brings Alpha to Europe and the US East Coast

The Swedish Esrange Space Center and the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, will both be hosting Firefly Alpha launches by 2026

Over the last week, Firefly Aerospace has announced some great agreements that will further its role as a versatile, world-known launch provider. Both the United States and Europe will have a part to play.

The first announcement came on June 24th, 2024, with Firefly’s plans to add Alpha launch capabilities at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Virginia, US. This comes as the company solidified its commitment to both Commercial and Defense activities in the United States, with a successful demonstration of its launcher’s Rapid Response capabilities.

The Alpha Rocket lifting off during the FLTA004 Mission. Credits: Firefly
The Alpha Rocket lifting off during the FLTA004 Mission. Credits: Firefly

A more recent agreement was disclosed on June 27th, bearing historical significance. Firefly Aerospace aims to be the first U.S. company to launch a rocket from mainland Europe. A contract with the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) is bringing Alpha launch capabilities to the Esrange Space Center, built past the Arctic Circle and recently adapted for satellite launches.

Great satisfaction came from both interested parties in the agreements, with Charlotta Sund, CEO of SSC, anticipating “a huge impact on the global launch market”, and Governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin looking forward to “Firefly’s success in Virginia as we work together to bolster our nation’s aerospace industry”.


Launches from the US East Coast

The Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia, will host launches for Firefly’s Alpha rocket. The Texas-based aerospace company marks 2025 as the beginning of this exciting launch capability expansion. The rocket will launch from Pad-0A, used by Antares, and now being upgraded to support the Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV), a collaboration between Firefly and Northrop Grumman, currently in development.

In the official press release, Firefly Aerospace’s CEO, Bill Weber, expressed the company’s commitment to establishing a “regular on-demand launch service, stressing the benefit of astreamlined approach to launches stemming from these planned Wallops facilities. Rapid mission deployment will be crucial for Firefly, as Alpha has been selected for 24-hour notice launches

Firefly/Northrop Grumman MLV Artist Render. Credits: Firefly
Firefly/Northrop Grumman MLV Artist Render. Credits: Firefly

The press release also detailed the company’s launch cadence plans for the next few years, both from Vandenberg Space Force Base and the MARS. Alpha could be launching four times this year, ramping up to 12 launches per year by 2026.

The MARS has been flourishing in recent years, with the addition of new infrastructure aimed at Defense and Commercial launch providers alike. Born within the Wallops Flight Facility, the spaceport has seen great expansion with the addition of Launch Pad-0C and additional Integration Facilities accompanying Rocket Lab’s first Electron launches from U.S. soil. Furthermore, Wallops will host Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 3, dedicated to the launch of the future Neutron reusable rocket.


Europe’s Potential for satellite launches

After some difficult months for the European satellite market, following the retirement of Ariane 5, the landscape is changing for the better, with its successor’s maiden launch now almost around the corner, and various innovative aerospace startups making great progress.

Firefly’s announcement proves that the European region has potential for different areas of interest. Sweden’s involvement in satellite launches is not strictly commercial. Given the country’s accession to NATO in March 2024, Firefly will participate and help in defense missions also. In fact, Sund also stated Firefly’s “collaboration strengthens the transatlantic link between Sweden and the U.S. ”.

The Alpha rocket will take off from the Launch Complex 3C, with a wide range for polar launches. The Esrange Space Center was recently expanded for satellite launches, given its location, far from densely populated areas, a concern limiting many other European countries. The first launch is scheduled for 2026, and work on the launch pad facilities has already begun.

Firefly’s announcement of launches from European soil

The entry of a new player capable of launching from European soil will open new opportunities for the European satellite market, especially considering the current access-to-space crisis Europe is facing. This agreement between Sweden and the US company can be a great example of the benefits that a greater openness to private and dynamic entities can bring.

Cover credits: Firefly Aerospace


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Marco Guardabasso

Marco Guardabasso

Engineering student with a passion for space, photography and arranging music.

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