Author Topic: Firefly Aerospace  (Read 11414 times)

Offline ringsider

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Firefly Aerospace
« on: 07/10/2017 09:37 AM »
This is an apparent rebirth of an older company, "Firefly Space Systems". Discussion on that old (and now defunct) company was here: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=33757 (topic now locked)

New company is Firefly Aerospace, with website at http://fireflyaerospace.com/

Creation Date: 2017-03-23

Only one link on the page:-

maito:[email protected]

Also the old www.fireflyspace.com website now has some references to the new corporate name.

Edit/Lar: crosslink and expand to more like a proper header.
« Last Edit: 07/19/2017 04:04 PM by Lar »

Offline MechE31

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #1 on: 07/19/2017 11:35 AM »
Aviation week put out a (paywalled) article on the re-emergence of Firefly Aerospace last week

http://aviationweek.com/awinspace/firefly-re-emerges-upgraded-alpha-rocket-design

Highlights:

Fully funded by high net worth individual
About 1 year behind original Firefly schedule (original launch of Q2 2018)
Upgraded performance
Switch to pump fed engine, not sure if it will be aerospike
Named Reaver

Offline ringsider

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #2 on: 07/19/2017 01:32 PM »
Aviation week put out a (paywalled) article on the re-emergence of Firefly Aerospace last week

http://aviationweek.com/awinspace/firefly-re-emerges-upgraded-alpha-rocket-design

Highlights:

Fully funded by high net worth individual
About 1 year behind original Firefly schedule (original launch of Q2 2018)
Upgraded performance
Switch to pump fed engine, not sure if it will be aerospike
Named Reaver

Well, they may be slightly ahead of Vector if they can salvage the burners.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #3 on: 07/19/2017 03:27 PM »


Aviation week put out a (paywalled) article on the re-emergence of Firefly Aerospace last week

http://aviationweek.com/awinspace/firefly-re-emerges-upgraded-alpha-rocket-design

Highlights:

Fully funded by high net worth individual


Another billionaire that wants to be millionaire.

Here is hoping they are successful this time round.


Offline ringsider

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #4 on: 07/29/2017 12:35 PM »
www.fireflyaerospace.com now re-directs to the old Firefly website.

Looks like new jobs being posted.

http://www.fireflyspace.com/careers

Offline starbase

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #5 on: 08/21/2017 08:44 PM »

Offline Andy Bandy

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #6 on: 08/21/2017 09:01 PM »
Markusic is back at CEO. Appears to be following the Ukrainian billionaire Maxym Polyakov's business plan. Polyakov is head of EOS Launcher based out of Silicon Valley. Been working for a number of years with organizations in native Ukraine on launchers, satellites, etc. The billionaire picked up most of Firefly's assets when they were auctioned off. Also called in a $1 million note originally held by Space Florida.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #7 on: 08/21/2017 10:53 PM »
Is firefly owned and financed by Polyakov?.

Offline Andy Bandy

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #8 on: 08/21/2017 10:58 PM »
Is firefly owned and financed by Polyakov?.

Yes. EOS Launcher is his company. EOS Launcher is the one that scooped up most of Firefly's assets. I'm guessing given that Virgin Galactic sued Markusic over the aerospike engine the company is probably pursuing some other engine tech.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #9 on: 08/23/2017 12:41 AM »
Seems Firefly is fully owned and funded by Noosphere. A larger
1000kg Alpha is likely to better bet for smallsat constellations, especially as cubesat LV market is looking to be oversupplied in near future. 

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3311/1

But one of those creditors, a fund called Noosphere Ventures, acquired the assets of Firefly when they want up for auction in the spring. “After they acquired the assets they started a new company, called Firefly Aerospace,” Markusic said. He was brought back to the company as its president.

The new Firefly is now wholly owned by Noosphere Ventures, which Markusic said had sufficient money to fund Firefly’s development without the need to go out and raise additional money. However, he didn’t rule out raising some outside funding for “capital efficiency” but added it wasn’t necessary for the company to develop the Alpha rocket.


Offline Prettz

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #10 on: 08/23/2017 01:21 AM »
Noosphere? Must be a STALKER reference.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #11 on: 09/09/2017 05:10 AM »
Salvaging spent GEO sats to use for Mars equipment supply, ok ...

Quote
Tom Markusic from @Firefly_Space presenting stratregy to get to Mars now @TheMarsSociety #Mars

https://twitter.com/arminellis/status/906257800623407104

Online HMXHMX

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #12 on: 09/10/2017 02:48 AM »
Salvaging spent GEO sats to use for Mars equipment supply, ok ...

Quote
Tom Markusic from @Firefly_Space presenting stratregy to get to Mars now @TheMarsSociety #Mars

https://twitter.com/arminellis/status/906257800623407104

Say what?  :(  There are few things less useful for going to Mars than a spent GEO bird...

Also, from The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies:  "Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the earth. Such objects or component parts found beyond the limits of the State Party to the Treaty on whose registry they are carried shall be returned to that State Party, which shall, upon request, furnish identifying data prior to their return."

In other words, there is no salvage in space.  (You'd have to buy the hardware.)

Offline Craftyatom

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #13 on: 09/10/2017 05:13 PM »
Also, from The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies:  "Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the earth. Such objects or component parts found beyond the limits of the State Party to the Treaty on whose registry they are carried shall be returned to that State Party, which shall, upon request, furnish identifying data prior to their return."

In other words, there is no salvage in space.  (You'd have to buy the hardware.)
To be fair, I don't think the asking price for a passivated satellite in a graveyard orbit is very much at all.

Not that this sounds like I good idea to me, for a number of reasons, but you could probably gain access to the satellites pretty cheaply.  Might be more expensive to get the plans so that you could see where the useful parts are, and how to remove/use them.
All aboard the HSF hype train!  Choo Choo!

Online fthomassy

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #14 on: 11/14/2017 12:12 AM »
Tom Markusic spoke about his career and Firefly's resurrection at New Worlds 2017 on 2017-11-11

Below are key points, not in order presented, and only as I recall them. Any characterization is my impression from how he described events rather than a quote. Tom's talk was in a space business track where he was illustrating the struggles faced. I am not a Journalist.

1. Alpha rocket back in development.
1a. Change to 1000[kg] to LEO
1b. Develop on known technologies (a.k.a. minimize research, focus on development)
1c. Four booster and one second stage engine (no truncated aerospike)

2. Loss of funding in 2017
2a. Spend was on order of $1M/week with cash on a knife edge
2b. Investor pulled back and could not secure follow on in time
2c. Lesson learned ... space is a long, hard, expensive road and you need your venture backed by a believer as much as an investor.

3. Resurrection in 2018
3a. Single investor bought it all in the auction and has the ability to fund to finish.
3b. Tom got the same crew back as much as he could.
3c. Team now around 100 and moving fast.
3d. Small group (about 10) working electric propulsion of next generation BEO.
3e. Illustrating their small advanced research effort Tom showed a "never seen before" image that looked like a concept delta wing SSTO with canard deploying a LEO payload. The real focus is on Alpha.
3f. He is amazed and grateful to be a rare example of a company rising from the ashes.

4. Career (actually the first thing covered)
4a. Collected degrees in Physics until he ran out of ones that suited him.
4b. Immersed in propulsion research with USAF and NASA.
4c. Time with SpaceX was energizing as he started of with F1. Elon Musk is truly committed to Mars so F1 was abandoned quickly.
4d. Time with Blue Origin was odd. Bezos is brilliant and engaged but has an odd notion that there should be a 'this strange thing called work life balance' ... I think Tom was half serious. Tom felt like he was an artifact in Bezos's rocket scientist collection so moved on.
4e. Branson is very distant form Virgin Galactic. The Virgin environment and mission did not suit him.
4f. Tom felt there was still a compelling business case for Falcon 1 class and felt ready to make his own vision a reality so started Firefly.

Another special note. Several engineers from Firefly were judges in the Cities in Space 2017 STEAMSpace competition.  An event held parallel to the first day of the professional symposium. Nice to see a commitment to the next generation of explorers!!
« Last Edit: 11/14/2017 12:27 AM by fthomassy »
gyatm . . . Fern

Offline vaporcobra

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #15 on: 01/24/2018 07:43 PM »
I report on commercial space!

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #16 on: 01/25/2018 03:23 AM »
Here's the Firefly stream.

Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Online matthewkantar

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #17 on: 01/25/2018 04:01 AM »
From the color image above, it looks like only one of the engines sown is gimbaled. Maybe the other actuators are not shown? Is it possible that only three or four engines are gimbaled?

Matthew

Offline edzieba

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #18 on: 01/25/2018 12:32 PM »
Is it possible that only three or four engines are gimbaled?
It's not an unreasonable design. As long as you can steer the exhaust stream you have control authority. Rockets have flown with solid motors steered using fluid injection into locations in the bell (e.g. Minuteman-II), this is not a dissimilar mechanism. Atlas also steered with a large fixed nozzle and completely separate small vernier engines (about 1.5% total thrust vs. 10% at a minimum for the Firefly array), and that wasn't even aided by plume interaction!

Offline brickmack

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #19 on: 01/25/2018 02:52 PM »
From the color image above, it looks like only one of the engines sown is gimbaled. Maybe the other actuators are not shown? Is it possible that only three or four engines are gimbaled?

Matthew

In the old design, that was the case. Note that there are struts on all the engines following the same path, but only 1 visible engine has actuators there instead of fixed struts, so its not merely an omission.

On the new design, I think the opposite is true. One engine has what looks to be a fixed-position strut, but the rest seem to have actuators (in a different location/direction, going down to the top of the spike)

Offline vaporcobra

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #20 on: 02/09/2018 08:42 PM »
Yayyyyy! Any NSFers planning on attending SXSW? :)

Quote
We can’t wait to see you at the #SXSW Trade Show, March 11-14! Find us at booth 405 and get a sneak peek of what we have been up to!
https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/962077237775249409
« Last Edit: 02/09/2018 08:42 PM by vaporcobra »
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Offline Kryten

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #21 on: 02/10/2018 08:23 PM »
Firefly's website has been updated with the new version of alpha;
Quote
Firefly Alpha is designed to address the needs the burgeoning small-satellite market. Alpha combines the highest payload performance with the lowest cost per kilogram to orbit in its vehicle class. Capable of delivering 1 metric ton to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 600 kg to the highly desirable 500 KM Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO), Alpha will provide launch options for both full vehicle and ride share customers.

Alpha will launch twice per month, a launch cadence that will enable customers to fly according to their schedule and to the orbit they desire.

PERFORMANCE
Payload LEO / 1,000 kg (LEO 28.5°, 200 km)
Payload SSO / 600 kg (SSO, 500 km)
PROPULSION: STAGE 1
Engine / 4X Reaver 1
Propellant / LOX / RP-1
Propelleant Feed / Turbopump
Combustors / 4
Thrust (vac) / 728.8 kN (163,841 lbf)
lsp (vac) / 295.7 seconds
PROPULSION: STAGE 2
Engine / Lightning 1
Propellant / LOX / RP-1
Propelleant Feed / Turbopump
Combustors / 1
Thrust (vac) / 69.9 kN (15,714 lbf)
lsp (vac) / 324.1 sec
DIMENSIONS
Stage 1 Diameter / 1.8 m (6 ft)
Stage 2 Diameter / 1.8 m (6 ft)
Payload Fairing Diameter / 2 m (6.6 ft)
Overall Length / 29 m (95 ft)
« Last Edit: 02/10/2018 08:23 PM by Kryten »

Offline vaporcobra

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #22 on: 02/10/2018 08:40 PM »
Very curious, looks like the moved entirely away from FRE-1 and FRE-2, although there might still be some heritage in Lightning and Reaver. Very much a different vehicle from alpha, as far as I can tell.
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Online gongora

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #23 on: 02/10/2018 08:46 PM »
You beat me to it.  I just got to this page in the new 2018 FAA Compendium.

Offline vaporcobra

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #24 on: 02/10/2018 08:54 PM »
Additional, a couple more details on their new R&D.

Propulsion
Quote
Alpha utilizes well established propulsion technology. Both stages use common designs: copper regen-cooled LOx/RP-1 thrust chambers, a simple tap-off cycle which drives single shaft turbopumps, nozzle-mounted turbine exhaust manifolds, and hydraulic actuators. Innovations in Firefly engines include our simple “Crossfire” injector, tap-off geometry, dual-mounted electrically actuated, trim-able propellant main valves, and ultra-compact horizontal turbopump mounting. The upper stage engine, “Lightning,” includes a turbine-exhaust cooled refractory metal high area ratio nozzle extension. The first stage “Reaver” engines feature simple single axis gimballing. Consistent with the overall Alpha vehicle design, cost and performance are traded and optimized in Lightning and Reaver components to provide the best payload performance value.

Structures
Quote
Firefly utilizes advanced carbon-fiber composites for the entire airframe of Alpha, including the state-of-the-art, linerless, cryogenic propellant tanks. Composite materials are ideally suited to launch vehicle structures due to their high strength, low density, tailorable material properties. This allows Firefly Alpha to lift heavier payloads than a similar metal rocket.

Avionics
Quote
Firefly Avionics hardware utilizes a combination of custom designed state-of-the-art and Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) components.

Data Acquisition is accomplished using a rugged, modular Data Acquisition Chassis, which provides analog to digital conversion of all sensor data, and further packages the data and transmits to the Flight Computer via an onboard Ethernet network.

The Flight Computer incorporates all vehicle telemetry and transmits data along with video to various Earth ground stations along the flight trajectory, for the duration of the flight.

Launch
Quote
Alpha will launch twice per month, a launch cadence that will enable customers to fly according to their schedule and to the orbit they desire.

Firefly will provide a great customer experience from your initial contact with our business development team to working with your dedicated payload manager. As the program progresses the focus will switch to working with our experienced launch site operations team to support your spacecraft processing needs.

Firefly launch sites will provide our customers with a wide range of orbit options to best fit their overall business objectives. Firefly launch site facilities support both dedicated launch vehicle customers and multiple manifest customers.
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Offline su27k

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #25 on: 02/11/2018 02:17 AM »
4 engines is a strange choice, no? Increased probability of engine trouble without the benefit of redundancy/engine-out capability.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #26 on: 02/11/2018 02:33 AM »
You beat me to it.  I just got to this page in the new 2018 FAA Compendium.

I wonder if they're feeding the turbopump exhaust into the nozzle to help get away with a larger expansion ratio nozzle?
Another interesting note it's almost large enough to launch a Mercury style capsule.
Though if built with modern materials something like Mercury probably would be under 1000Kg.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2018 02:34 AM by Patchouli »

Online envy887

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #27 on: 02/11/2018 03:00 AM »
4 engines is a strange choice, no? Increased probability of engine trouble without the benefit of redundancy/engine-out capability.

Shuttle had redundancy and engine-out capability with only 3 engines, so they would have some - just not to the extent that a 7+ engine design would.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #28 on: 02/11/2018 03:08 AM »
Engine redundancy is not really an option in this LV class or necessary.

Offline vaporcobra

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #29 on: 02/11/2018 05:31 AM »
Engine redundancy is not really an option in this LV class or necessary.

The only operational smallsat launcher would beg to differ, with nine first stage engines :P
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Offline ringsider

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #30 on: 02/11/2018 06:51 AM »
Engine redundancy is not really an option in this LV class or necessary.

The only operational smallsat launcher would beg to differ, with nine first stage engines :P

I am not sure this launcher concept is in the same class as Electron with 150kg payload - 1000kg makes it a competitor to Vega (1500kg).

Offline su27k

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #31 on: 02/11/2018 08:30 AM »
4 engines is a strange choice, no? Increased probability of engine trouble without the benefit of redundancy/engine-out capability.

Shuttle had redundancy and engine-out capability with only 3 engines, so they would have some - just not to the extent that a 7+ engine design would.

But Shuttle stack has more than 3 engines, they have 2 big SRBs helping the liftoff. At liftoff each SSME only contributes 1/17 of the total thrust.

Offline Kosmos2001

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #32 on: 02/11/2018 06:11 PM »
Did they drop the idea of aerospike finally? And methane IIRC?

Edit:

Firefly's website has been updated with the new version of alpha;

It is interesting how they did round to the first decimal when they wrote the value of Isp. I'd bet that their Isp in m/s for the first stage is 2900 and 3178 for the second one.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2018 06:32 PM by Kosmos2001 »

Offline Prettz

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #33 on: 02/11/2018 09:58 PM »
Did they drop the idea of aerospike finally? And methane IIRC?
And pressure-fed engines. Basically everything that made the original Firefly Alpha really interesting to me. It seems pretty standard now. Well, a tap-off cycle with RP-1 is unusual. Has anyone tried that before?

Online HMXHMX

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #34 on: 02/11/2018 10:57 PM »
Did they drop the idea of aerospike finally? And methane IIRC?
And pressure-fed engines. Basically everything that made the original Firefly Alpha really interesting to me. It seems pretty standard now. Well, a tap-off cycle with RP-1 is unusual. Has anyone tried that before?

My guys tried making it work for a client but went back to a conventional GG.  I have no doubt it can be done but am not sure it is worth the effort, especially when you need to throttle.  My experience is that you want to decouple engine components from one another to keep development cost and risk under control, not tie them together more tightly. 

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #35 on: 02/12/2018 12:37 AM »
I wish someone other than that Chinese firm would have the guts to just copy the Falcon 9 recovery method. These smallsat launchers, if they're flying more than a dozen times per year (let alone 24 like Firefly or 100 like RocketLab...), really ought to be at least partially reusable.
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Offline msat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #36 on: 02/12/2018 01:10 AM »
RL might not be expending any resources at this time on reuse (I don't know if this is actually true), but I would not at all be surprised  if that changed down the road. Since they tend to keep their cards close to their chest, they at least give the [refreshing] outwards appearance of being laser focused. Despite having successfully launched a payload into its planned orbit, formidable challenges still lay ahead just to attain their stated goals. Reusability might very well come later just as it did for SpaceX. And while SpaceX may have stated publicly that was always their intent, it may have quietly been RL's as well, and even if it wasn't, it doesn't mean they could never have a change of heart. Time will tell if this holds true for Firefly too.

Online gongora

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #37 on: 02/12/2018 01:21 AM »
I wish someone other than that Chinese firm would have the guts to just copy the Falcon 9 recovery method. These smallsat launchers, if they're flying more than a dozen times per year (let alone 24 like Firefly or 100 like RocketLab...), really ought to be at least partially reusable.

They may not have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on developing reuse right now.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #38 on: 02/12/2018 01:40 AM »
I wish someone other than that Chinese firm would have the guts to just copy the Falcon 9 recovery method. These smallsat launchers, if they're flying more than a dozen times per year (let alone 24 like Firefly or 100 like RocketLab...), really ought to be at least partially reusable.

They may not have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on developing reuse right now.
...and that's why you essentially copy SpaceX instead of trying to do something else clever. And also: don't need that much to do what Masten and that Chinese company are doing. But I'm satisfied to know that Firefly at least paid lip service to reuse in the past.
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Offline Patchouli

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #39 on: 02/12/2018 01:47 AM »
Did they drop the idea of aerospike finally? And methane IIRC?
And pressure-fed engines. Basically everything that made the original Firefly Alpha really interesting to me. It seems pretty standard now. Well, a tap-off cycle with RP-1 is unusual. Has anyone tried that before?

The only tap-off cycle engines I know of or the J-2S and BE-3 both which burn hydrogen.
« Last Edit: 02/12/2018 01:48 AM by Patchouli »

Offline su27k

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #40 on: 02/12/2018 04:39 AM »
I wish someone other than that Chinese firm would have the guts to just copy the Falcon 9 recovery method. These smallsat launchers, if they're flying more than a dozen times per year (let alone 24 like Firefly or 100 like RocketLab...), really ought to be at least partially reusable.

Orbit first then reuse works, there's existence proof of that. Nobody has made the reverse work yet, Blue Origin could demonstrate it but Blue is hardly your average space company.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #41 on: 02/12/2018 06:48 AM »
I wish someone other than that Chinese firm would have the guts to just copy the Falcon 9 recovery method. These smallsat launchers, if they're flying more than a dozen times per year (let alone 24 like Firefly or 100 like RocketLab...), really ought to be at least partially reusable.

They may not have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on developing reuse right now.
...and that's why you essentially copy SpaceX instead of trying to do something else clever. And also: don't need that much to do what Masten and that Chinese company are doing. But I'm satisfied to know that Firefly at least paid lip service to reuse in the past.
The Spacex method won't work for small launchers if they want to stay small. The extra mass of the landing fuel, attitude system, hydraulic landing legs and titanium grid fins almost certainly makes it unworkable, because they will add much more mass than the 100-200kg  payload that these guys are trying to carry. Unless you build a much bigger vehicle for the same payload, it is unworkable - and the costs of a bigger vehicle probably make it uneconomic to build just to recover. I'm guessing, but that seems like a circular challenge.

That's why some of the images from the Spanish startup PLD Space on here a couple of days ago with grid fins and legs etc on a small launcher are more like science fiction, and that's probably why Rocket Lab isn't yet focussed on it.

Also the cost of recovery at sea in the same way as used by OCISLY in that class is probably more than the cost of building a new one, because ships, people etc have a fixed cost regardless of the size of the launcher, and become a much bigger fraction of the entire operational cost than they are of Spacex's operation.
« Last Edit: 02/12/2018 06:50 AM by ringsider »

Offline Nomic

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #42 on: 02/12/2018 08:31 AM »
Tap off kerlox/storeable prop engines have been talked about right back to WWII, despite the claimed advantages of simplification, nobody has actually built one. On the J2S, extra hydrogen was sprayed into the tapoff ports to reduce the TIT, guess they must be doing something similar using extra RP1. Cant see a turbopump on the photo of the engine on the test stand, wonder if they are just testing the thrust chamber?

Offline chipguy

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #43 on: 02/12/2018 05:10 PM »
On the J2S, extra hydrogen was sprayed into the tapoff ports to reduce the TIT

Temperature at Input to Turbine?

Online e of pi

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #44 on: 02/12/2018 05:29 PM »
Temperature at Input to Turbine?
You've got the right idea, but it's actually "Turbine Inlet Temperature".

Offline chipguy

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #45 on: 02/12/2018 05:53 PM »
Temperature at Input to Turbine?
You've got the right idea, but it's actually "Turbine Inlet Temperature".

Thanks. I really didn't want to do an internet search.

Offline hkultala

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #46 on: 02/13/2018 09:43 PM »
I wish someone other than that Chinese firm would have the guts to just copy the Falcon 9 recovery method. These smallsat launchers, if they're flying more than a dozen times per year (let alone 24 like Firefly or 100 like RocketLab...), really ought to be at least partially reusable.

They may not have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on developing reuse right now.
...and that's why you essentially copy SpaceX instead of trying to do something else clever. And also: don't need that much to do what Masten and that Chinese company are doing. But I'm satisfied to know that Firefly at least paid lip service to reuse in the past.
The Spacex method won't work for small launchers if they want to stay small. The extra mass of the landing fuel
propotional to the dry mass of the vehicle
Quote
, attitude system

do you mean the cold gas thrusters?

Quote
, hydraulic landing legs and titanium grid fins

Also propotional to the dry mass of the vehicle?

Quote
almost certainly makes it unworkable, because they will add much more mass than the 100-200kg  payload that these guys are trying to carry.

Those components are first stage mass, not upper stage mass. It's not going to orbit, it does not decrease payload by the same amount.

The ratio of penalty from first stage mass to orbit is in the range of 5:1, depending on when the staging occurs.


Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #47 on: 02/16/2018 03:15 PM »
So my overall assessment of this new Alpha is... different.

To be clear, thats not a bad thing. In fact, I'm quite excited to hear why they made these decisions.

The only other rocket I can think of with 4 first stage engines is the one South Korea is working on, so that alone is strange. But that number along with the different second stage engine seems especially weird today, with the market's current trend being "copy SpaceX" and use a lot of small engines on the first stage and the same engine vacuum-optimized for the second stage. Even Firefly were originally going to do this.

4 engines also ignores the more traditional approach of one big first stage engine.

Also, it seems strange to make a separate second stage engine and still use Kerolox for it.

Even the payload range is unique. They will be the first to go after the one-ton payload range.

The whole design ignores all current trends in the market, which is probably a good thing, because the SmallSat launch market is going to be quite crowded quite soon. I'm curious to see where this goes.
« Last Edit: 02/16/2018 03:17 PM by JEF_300 »

Offline Craftyatom

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #48 on: 02/16/2018 05:41 PM »
Even the payload range is unique. They will be the first to go after the one-ton payload range.
Reminds me of that quote from a GLXP planner, about how when they started the prize, F1 and Dnepr were both flying 1/2- to 3-ton missions for cheap, but both retired before anyone got a chance to use them for anything lunar.  This would be in the same class as those two, which certainly sounds like a market with some growth potential.
All aboard the HSF hype train!  Choo Choo!

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #49 on: 02/16/2018 07:10 PM »
1000kg market is perfect for smallsat LEO constellations, which is new emerging market. Those same engines can be used for follow on x9 engine RLV with payload of around 1500kg.


Offline Lars-J

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Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #50 on: 02/17/2018 12:38 AM »
1000kg market is perfect for smallsat LEO constellations, which is new emerging market. Those same engines can be used for follow on x9 engine RLV with payload of around 1500kg.

It may be perfect for smallsat LEO constellation *satellites* - but not for constellations - because I see no way that they have (or will have) enough volume capacity for the number of launches needed to launch and maintain a constellation.

The idea that any of these smallsat operators will launch 100s of times per year is fantasy. IMO.

So there may be a smallsat demand they can fill - but I think constellations are going to go elsewhere to larger operators who can handle the volume.
« Last Edit: 02/17/2018 12:57 AM by Lars-J »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #51 on: 02/17/2018 02:35 AM »
Lars-J:
Pegasus was used for launching a LEO smallsat constellation, and it has a fairing about 1m wide by 2m long. Firefly has a much larger fairing (2m and 4m, respectively, so like an order of magnitude more volume and only about twice the payload to orbit: 443kg for Pegasus XL and 1000kg for Firefly). Plenty of volume if your smallsats are designed right. The cubesat form factor, especially, is efficient for this. Planet current uses the cubesat form factor for their Doves. Cubesats have slightly greater density than water.

The fairing is 2m in diameter and has a roughly 4m usuable height. That's about 12 cubic meters, call it 10 cubic meters. At the density of cubesats, that's 10 tons (well, up to 14 tons), an order of magnitude greater payload than it actually can do. So I'd argue it's much more mass constrained than volume constrained.

I'm pretty sure Alpha could launch all of Planet Lab's cubesat constellation that is in orbit right now. And should be able to do like 5 OneWeb satellites per launch, too.


1 ton to orbit is actually a much better business proposition than the 100kg launchers, IMHO.
« Last Edit: 02/17/2018 02:36 AM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #52 on: 02/17/2018 03:09 AM »
And Skysats (the big brother of the 3U cubesat Doves) are 60cmx60cmx80cm and weigh 83-100kg. If packed carefully, Alpha should still be mass-limited, not volume-limited. Could launch like 10 or 12 Skysats, nearly the whole constellation.

...and as someone who uses planet.com I have kind of become addicted to Skysat’s much superior 0.9m resolution (just 3m for the Doves). 0.9m let’s you actually see more than just blobs.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #53 on: 02/17/2018 03:43 AM »
Just noticed, but the other image (of the whole Alpha rocket) seems to show an odd number of engines, like 5 engines:
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Offline Lars-J

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #54 on: 02/17/2018 04:25 AM »
Robotbeat, I was responding to a post about 1t satellites. Far different than the cubesats (and larger) you mention. And I think that we are using the word "constellation" to mean different things. No one is in the near future going to fly constellations of cubesats. No, I mean constellations of larger sats in the 0.5-1t range, and thousands of them.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #55 on: 02/17/2018 04:50 AM »
Most such constellations are dozens or hundreds. Originally, only SpaceX was crazy enough to propose a megaconstellation of thousands. And they’re much smaller than 1 ton, even for SpaceX. As I wrote, even the Oneweb satellites could be launched five at a time in the Alpha.
« Last Edit: 02/17/2018 04:51 AM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #56 on: 02/17/2018 05:00 AM »
LarsJ: you were responding to this, which did NOT specify 1 ton satellites (you misinterpreted it) nor thousands of them.
1000kg market is perfect for smallsat LEO constellations, which is new emerging market. Those same engines can be used for follow on x9 engine RLV with payload of around 1500kg.

Most LEO constellations propose fairly small satellites such that you could launch several at once even with just the Alpha. Here’s a list (also counts MEO, which isn’t relevant here):
There was a wave of FCC filings November 15.

Audacy: 3 MEO relays to communicate with LEO spacecraft.
SATLOA2016111500117

Karousel: 12 IGSO satelllites for video
SATLOA2016111500113

Kepler MULTUS: 2-140 LEO nanosats for M2M communication
SATLOI2016111500114

LeoSat: 78 LEO satellites
SATLOI2016111500112

O3b: Amendment to add another 40 satellites
SATAMD2016111500116

SpaceX: has its own thread
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=41634.0
SATLOA2016111500118

Space Norway: 2 satellites in high-inclination 16-hour orbit
SATLOI2016111500111

Telesat Canada: 117 in LEO
SATLOI2016111500108

Boeing: 60 IGSO (this is separate from the smallsat filing they also have)
SATLOA2016111500109

Theia: 112 for remote sensing
SATLOA2016111500121

Viasat: 24 in polar MEO
SATLOI2016111500120
« Last Edit: 02/17/2018 05:01 AM by Robotbeat »
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #57 on: 02/17/2018 01:27 PM »
For likes of SpaceX 4000 smallsats, large LV like F9 is only way to go for initial placement. Small LVs are better for urgent service replacements in these cases.

As Robot pointed out there are lots little constellations containing anyway from 2-50 smallsats in 100kg range that need deployment to specific orbits. These prefer LVs in 200-1000kg range.

Alpha will compete directly with PSLV, Vega and LauncherOne for smallsats. Electron is slight different market, 1-3 smallsats and cubesat deployment.

With addition of 3rd stage Apha could open up dedicated launch to BLEO for smallsats. 

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #58 on: 02/21/2018 04:40 PM »
Just noticed, but the other image (of the whole Alpha rocket) seems to show an odd number of engines, like 5 engines:

It's just viewing the four engines from a corner instead of a side

Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #59 on: 02/22/2018 07:27 PM »
I just realized that there is an operational and flying launcher in this range.

Minotaur IV will do 1.5 tons to LEO.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #60 on: 02/22/2018 08:56 PM »
I just realized that there is an operational and flying launcher in this range.

Minotaur IV will do 1.5 tons to LEO.

Restricted launcher. Not too sure you can offer the Minotaur for non-US government missions, since the Minotaur components are mainly from old USAF ICBMs.

Offline Kryten

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Re: Firefly Aerospace
« Reply #61 on: 02/22/2018 09:48 PM »
Restricted launcher. Not too sure you can offer the Minotaur for non-US government missions, since the Minotaur components are mainly from old USAF ICBMs.
You legally can't, but Minotaur-C is unrestricted and in roughly the same size class.

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