Firefly Aerospace successfully launched a satellite for the US Space Force last night on just 24 hours’ notice, in a record-breaking demonstration of rapid launch capabilities for national security missions.
The Space Force ordered Firefly to launch on September 13, at which point the 24-hour clock started ticking. Within that time frame, Firefly was able to complete final launch preparations, update the flight software trajectory, encapsulate the payload created by Millennium Space Systems, and dock it with the Firefly Alpha rocket.
The company launched the Victus Nox mission at the first available time, with Alpha leaving the path just 27 hours after the launch message was received.
“Today was an incredible success for the Space Force, the Firefly team and our nation after accomplishing 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 meet national security needs.”
The mission sets a new record among commercial space companies for responsive space launch, by a fairly wide margin – the previous record was set by Northrop Grumman in June 2021 at 21 days. Remarkably, this is only the third mission in Firefly’s nine-year history.
Millennium Space Systems, a subsidiary of Boeing, was also successful in their own challenge: as part of the mission, they had 60 hours to transport the spacecraft 265 miles from El Segundo, California to Vandenberg Space Force Base and integrate it with Alpha’s payload adapter. They completed this work in 58 hours.
“Victus Nox’s success marks a culture change in our nation’s ability to deter adversary aggression and, when necessary, respond with the operational speed necessary to deliver decisive capabilities to our warfighters,” said Space Systems Command Commander Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein. “This exercise is part of an end-to-end Tactically Responsive Space demonstration that proves the United States Space Force can quickly integrate capabilities and will respond to aggression when called upon on tactically relevant timelines.”
Space Systems Command, part of the Space Force, is charged with developing and acquiring space technologies for national security. The Space Force has had a continued interest in purchasing fast launch capabilities from private industry; for this mission, Firefly received $17.6 million.