NASASpaceFlight.com Forum

Commercial and US Government Launch Vehicles => Commercial Space Flight General => Topic started by: QuantumG on 01/09/2014 02:25 AM

Title: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 01/09/2014 02:25 AM
http://app.hedgeye.com/unlocked_content/32826-introducing-firefly-space-systems

They've got Tom Markusic and they are aiming "to be in orbit in about three years."

@Firefly_Space on Twitter.

"We have established our headquarters in Austin, TX and research and development operations in Hawthorne, CA."

Edit/Lar: The company is now defunct, but reborn with a new name...
New thread for revamped Firefly Aerospace is here:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=43326

This one now locked unless there is more to say (report to mod with unlock request explaining what you want to add and why)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/09/2014 02:49 AM
I wish they would make more information available.  Their entire website is 10 words.

The Hedgeye post shows a graphic that seems to imply a two-stage vertically-launched rocket.  There are four somethings on the bottom that look like possible landing legs.  There seems to be one engine on the bottom of the first stage, and it looks like it might be an aerospike.

There's no detail on exactly how big the payload is supposed to be.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 01/09/2014 03:39 AM
I heard of these guys in passing a couple of months and didn't stop to check it out.

Perhaps at a space conference in the Silicon Valley, or an address in Mojave.

Is there any connection with the DSI Firefly probes?

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: markusic on 01/09/2014 03:40 AM
Hello all.  Thanks for starting this thread.  One of our themes at Firefly will be transparency; we look forward to continued dialog with the community as our vehicles and company mature.  We will update the website soon to provide details on performance, and technology employed.

-Tom Markusic
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/09/2014 03:52 AM
Great, I'm looking forward to it!  Welcome to the forum!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Garrett on 01/09/2014 07:53 AM
Welcome to the forum Tom.

Saw this on their Twitter account (@Firefly_Space (https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/)):
Quote
Job openings for aerospace engineers with New Space experience.
This must be the first time I've seen a job position specifically requesting "New Space experience". I wonder how they define that? In another tweet, they say:
Quote
We are building an engineering driven culture & one of the very best #Newspace working environments yet
What's a New Space environment? Masten-like or SpaceX-like?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 01/09/2014 11:30 AM
From Twitter page:

Quote
Air breathing small sat launchers coming to an orbit near you soon!

Wondered what the boxy thingies at the base of the rocket in Hedgeye picture were. Ramjets? And toroidal aerospike? Cool.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Chris Bergin on 01/09/2014 01:04 PM
Hello all.  Thanks for starting this thread.  One of our themes at Firefly will be transparency; we look forward to continued dialog with the community as our vehicles and company mature.  We will update the website soon to provide details on performance, and technology employed.

-Tom Markusic

Good news Tom. Thanks for joining - we like companies that interact!

And did someone say aerospike! Nice! :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 01/09/2014 02:43 PM

What's a New Space environment? Masten-like or SpaceX-like?

Yes.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Eer on 01/09/2014 03:00 PM
What's a New Space environment? Masten-like or SpaceX-like?

From the link:

With a Ph.D. from Princeton in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Tom has conducted research on deep space propulsion systems and since 2006 has held senior leadership positions inside virtually every leader in the Newspace Industry: Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 01/09/2014 03:08 PM
Here's the picture in question, for posterity's sake.

It does indeed look like four hypersonic inlets/exhausts feeding onto a common plug nozzle. Hydrocarbon scramjet?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 01/09/2014 03:22 PM
Interesting! Cant wait to hear more about this!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 01/09/2014 03:41 PM
One interesting tidbit from the announcement is that it sounds like they will be focusing on sun-synchronous orbits,  which makes sense for comm sat constellations and downward-looking telescopes, but also means they need a launch site like Vanderburg where they can launch polar, slightly retrograde.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 01/09/2014 04:07 PM
Hydrocarbon scramjet?

The otherwise "rockety" looks suggests flight path that's already above of most of the atmosphere before scramjet speed achieved so I'd guess no. Voting for ramjet that is tuned to assist as early as possible, say from ~1M to flame out at .. uh .. 3-4M. (SWAG!)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Darren_Hensley on 01/09/2014 04:49 PM
One interesting tidbit from the announcement is that it sounds like they will be focusing on sun-synchronous orbits,  which makes sense for comm sat constellations and downward-looking telescopes, but also means they need a launch site like Vanderburg where they can launch polar, slightly retrograde.

Why rule out Sea Launch? It looks small enough.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 01/09/2014 05:20 PM
Hydrocarbon scramjet?

The otherwise "rockety" looks suggests flight path that's already above of most of the atmosphere before scramjet speed achieved so I'd guess no. Voting for ramjet that is tuned to assist as early as possible, say from ~1M to flame out at .. uh .. 3-4M. (SWAG!)

Maybe, maybe. On the other hand, if it's not going to use the jets for long, why bother having them at all?

Thinking about it again, maybe hydrogen scram/ramjets, given that the first stage looks long enough that a hydrocarbon stage that size would not need air-breathing assistance.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 01/09/2014 06:38 PM
Maybe these jet engines (if they really exist) are for RTLS of the first stage?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jim on 01/09/2014 06:53 PM

Why rule out Sea Launch? It looks small enough.

Because Sea Launch is not going to let a competitor use its facilities and there are ITAR issues.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 01/09/2014 07:11 PM

Why rule out Sea Launch? It looks small enough.

Because Sea Launch is not going to let a competitor use its facilities and there are ITAR issues.

Uhm, I think he meant "sea-launch" as in floating launch Jim. In answer to the question though don't think "air-breathing" is compatable with sea-launch.

It is "just" a conception art at this point (I think?) but I'm not sure how much "help" simple ramjets would be and it doesn't actually look like the "inlets" feed into the plug-nozzle but have their own exhaust outlets. Frankly I don't think the art helps us with anything and, well, uhm... Oh heck! Markusic get back here and start devulging company secrets! Stat! :)
(And welcome to the forums)

(I wonder if I can get these guys to steal my or Dani Edar's "Jet-booster" ideas! Please? :) )

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Oli on 01/09/2014 07:59 PM
Maybe the small launcher is just a test vehicle for the engine (with a winged vehicle following later).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Rabidpanda on 01/09/2014 08:20 PM
This tweet suggests that it is a ramjet: https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/421130849845661696

Quote
Thanx for all the follows. We're thrilled to have you paying attention as our endeavor kicks off. #aerospike #ramjet #LEO #SSO
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 01/09/2014 08:26 PM

Why rule out Sea Launch? It looks small enough.

Because even a small rocket going "boooooooom" could take out the Sea Launch platform, and insurance against that is expensive. So, it would cost too much to use Sea Launch hardware.

However, for a small launcher, a separate sea platform might not be too expensive. Been done before.

Not that this has anything to do with Firefly, I was just answering a question.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Stellvia on 01/09/2014 09:31 PM
Talk of ramjets and aerospikes makes me wonder if they've got a finger in the DARPA XS-1 pie...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 01/10/2014 01:58 AM
That is an excellent point; it does seem about the right size.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: MikeAtkinson on 01/10/2014 08:03 AM
My guess is that the ramjet is more about boostback / flyback and landing than about the launch.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: go4mars on 01/10/2014 01:54 PM
Tom, does this company have any formal relationship with SpaceX or shareholders in common?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: butters on 01/10/2014 03:47 PM
It's not immediately obvious to me how a ramjet could be useful for boost-back, descent, or landing retropropulsion. It's also not going to be effective at liftoff, so the propulsion system must generate maximum thrust without air breathing (unless it's a combined-cycle turbo-ramjet, but that massively increases the complexity of the system). The ramjet flight regime would cover a relatively small portion of the ascent profile.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Darren_Hensley on 01/10/2014 05:21 PM

Why rule out Sea Launch? It looks small enough.

Because Sea Launch is not going to let a competitor use its facilities and there are ITAR issues.

I was thinking "SeaLaunch" as more of a method, rather than a the existing SeaLaunch company  making provisions. It seems to me launching at sea, with this relativly small vehicle would enhance the overall program.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 01/10/2014 05:29 PM
The ramjet flight regime would cover a relatively small portion of the ascent profile.

Entire ascent profile, yes. First stage ascent profile, I'd respectfully disagree.

If there are landing legs they appear to be hidden really well. If there aren't legs does RTLS make sense anymore?

Wondering the engine cycle, if it's GG you might get some additional efficiency by ducting GG exhaust to the ramjets?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 01/10/2014 07:13 PM
This tweet suggests that it is a ramjet: https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/421130849845661696

Quote
Thanx for all the follows. We're thrilled to have you paying attention as our endeavor kicks off. #aerospike #ramjet #LEO #SSO
"Hashtag" if one were to be fully Technical :) However those hashtags are indeed interesting. Aerospike engine, ramjet engine, and what I assume stands for "Single Stage to Orbit" and LEO...

Aerospike allows automatic sea-level to vacuum exhaust expansion

Ramjets are capable of boosting accelleration between speeds of Mach-2 to around Mach-6 (Possibly to Mach-8 but that's rought)

SSO? Looks like at least a TSTO to me and it doesn't strike me as an RLV but an ELV, performance wise I don't see a small launcher having the ability to do RTLS. "Fly-forward" yes.

We just don't have enough information! Dang it! "One of our themes at Firefly will be transparency" my left foot! It has been OVER 24 hours since markusic posted the first time, and we still have no further information! What is this, "Blue Origin light?" Information wants to be free! We demand details! We demand schematics! Blueprints! Icecream!
(Yep now that I think about it we can be a pretty obnoxious bunch can't we :)

Randy :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 01/10/2014 07:27 PM
This tweet suggests that it is a ramjet: https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/421130849845661696

Quote
Thanx for all the follows. We're thrilled to have you paying attention as our endeavor kicks off. #aerospike #ramjet #LEO #SSO
"Hashtag" if one were to be fully Technical :) However those hashtags are indeed interesting. Aerospike engine, ramjet engine, and what I assume stands for "Single Stage to Orbit" and LEO...

Aerospike allows automatic sea-level to vacuum exhaust expansion

Ramjets are capable of boosting accelleration between speeds of Mach-2 to around Mach-6 (Possibly to Mach-8 but that's rought)

SSO? Looks like at least a TSTO to me and it doesn't strike me as an RLV but an ELV, performance wise I don't see a small launcher having the ability to do RTLS. "Fly-forward" yes.

We just don't have enough information! Dang it! "One of our themes at Firefly will be transparency" my left foot! It has been OVER 24 hours since markusic posted the first time, and we still have no further information! What is this, "Blue Origin light?" Information wants to be free! We demand details! We demand schematics! Blueprints! Icecream!
(Yep now that I think about it we can be a pretty obnoxious bunch can't we :)

Randy :)

SSO = Sun synchronous orbit.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: cosmonautdjp on 01/10/2014 07:37 PM
One interesting tidbit from the announcement is that it sounds like they will be focusing on sun-synchronous orbits,  which makes sense for comm sat constellations and downward-looking telescopes, but also means they need a launch site like Vanderburg where they can launch polar, slightly retrograde.

What about Kodiak?  Might be easier for a startup to launch from a non USAF facility.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jim on 01/10/2014 07:50 PM

I was thinking "SeaLaunch" as more of a method, rather than a the existing SeaLaunch company  making provisions. It seems to me launching at sea, with this relativly small vehicle would enhance the overall program.

Small doesn't really matter, sea launch is still not off the cuff easy task.  There still is significant logistics involved, such as two ships required. 
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jim on 01/10/2014 07:52 PM

What about Kodiak?  Might be easier for a startup to launch from a non USAF facility.

No, quite the opposite.  The safety rules are the same as at VAFB and there is more infrastructure and help available and less travel
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 01/10/2014 07:53 PM
I don't think that debating launch sites for someone else's company is really appropriate for this thread.

Let's keep this for news about Firefly, and use another thread for how to spend someone else's investment.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 01/10/2014 08:08 PM
SSO = Sun synchronous orbit.

:::sigh::: Ok that's a relief :)


I was thinking "SeaLaunch" as more of a method, rather than a the existing SeaLaunch company  making provisions. It seems to me launching at sea, with this relativly small vehicle would enhance the overall program.

Small doesn't really matter, sea launch is still not off the cuff easy task.  There still is significant logistics involved, such as two ships required.

Uhm, no? Only one ship is possible. Dolphin only used one ship for both transportation and flight control. Mind you I don't think "surf-launch" (as it's called now because "SeaLaunch" is copyrighted :) ) is compatable with air-breathing at all but the experimentation done shows that sliding a rocket off the aft end of a ship, preping, fueling and launch is actually easier overall than "normal" launch operations. And since there is no way to "damage" the pad either with a normal or failed launch it lends itself very well to high launch rates.

http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/dolphin.htm

http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/seahorse.htm

http://neverworld.net/truax/

Edit, forgot to point out: Sea-Bee the world FIRST RLV that was actually REUSED for multiple flights!
http://neverworld.net/truax/video/SEA_BEE.WMV
http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/seabee.htm
EndEdit

As for Kodiak the Air Force still runs the "range" overall and have you SEEN the route to the pad??? Our drivers get hazard pay for going up the switch-backs to the launch area! :)

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 01/10/2014 08:15 PM
My thoughts about this:

There's a perceived trend (which might very well become real) of large constellations of small satellites.  For Earth imaging, for communication, etc.    Iridium never worked out, perhaps because of market and timing, perhaps because of the state of electronics at the time, perhaps because of the cost of launch.  All of these have changed, and so these can be a new breed of constellations.

What they need is a small rapid-reuse launcher that can put many small satellites in many orbital inclinations.

They want to be in orbit within 3 years, while also using experimental propulsion technology. This reinforces the notion that it's a very small rocket.

This is also a good story when raising funds - optimizing for an emerging market for which the existing launchers are overbuilt.

EDIT: Re-wrote it, in English this time.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Oli on 01/10/2014 08:40 PM
Quote from: R7
Entire ascent profile, yes. First stage ascent profile, I'd respectfully disagree.

I think first stages of existing rockets only spend a short time below 30km or so once they have reached Mach 1.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/11/2014 05:34 AM

Why rule out Sea Launch? It looks small enough.

Because Sea Launch is not going to let a competitor use its facilities and there are ITAR issues.

I was thinking "SeaLaunch" as more of a method, rather than a the existing SeaLaunch company  making provisions. It seems to me launching at sea, with this relativly small vehicle would enhance the overall program.

That would be "sea launch", not "Sea Launch".  Capitalization matters.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/11/2014 05:37 AM
Sea-Bee the world FIRST RLV that was actually REUSED for multiple flights!

Sea Bee was sub-orbital.  RLV normally means orbital.  An Estes rocket is an RLV is you don't have an orbital requirement.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: kkattula on 01/11/2014 07:07 AM
That rocket looks surprisingly wide for a small launcher, they're usually much thinner, for aerodynamic reasons.  Which makes it harder (more expensive) to achieve high mass ratio,  etc.

If Firefly are attempting to develop a very low cost, expendable, micro-sat launcher, they may be planning to side-step much of the aerodynamic issue by delaying supersonic flight until they're at high altitude:

<SWAG>They lift-off under rocket power, and when they reach Mach 0.6 to 0.8, at 1 to 2 km, throttle back & switch on ramjets or a ducted rocket mode, to maintain that 'cruise' speed. At 15 to 20 km altitude (maybe even higher), they throttle up and continue to staging and orbit. </SWAG>

I've modeled it using only rocket engines, and the increase in gravity losses is only a little more then the reduction in drag losses. Throw in air breathing cruise engines, an altitude compensating first stage nozzle, and an emphasis on low cost...

Also, the air inlet design is vastly simplified by only having to work at a fixed speed.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 01/12/2014 02:05 AM
<SWAG>They lift-off under rocket power, and when they reach Mach 0.6 to 0.8, at 1 to 2 km, throttle back & switch on ramjets or a ducted rocket mode, to maintain that 'cruise' speed. At 15 to 20 km altitude (maybe even higher), they throttle up and continue to staging and orbit. </SWAG>

That is an even more interesting speculation. Ducted rockets are tricky to properly utilize (need a very specific trajectory), but can really add a lot of impulse if the vehicle is optimized for them. The Soviets got really close to actually deploying one as an ICBM, but the death of the project leader got in the way....

http://astronautix.com/lvs/gnom.htm
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 01/14/2014 03:46 PM
Sea-Bee the world FIRST RLV that was actually REUSED for multiple flights!

Sea Bee was sub-orbital.  RLV normally means orbital.  An Estes rocket is an RLV is you don't have an orbital requirement.

Direct quote from the website, so take it as you will :)

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: a_langwich on 01/15/2014 07:35 AM
<SWAG>They lift-off under rocket power, and when they reach Mach 0.6 to 0.8, at 1 to 2 km, throttle back & switch on ramjets or a ducted rocket mode, to maintain that 'cruise' speed. At 15 to 20 km altitude (maybe even higher), they throttle up and continue to staging and orbit. </SWAG>

That is an even more interesting speculation. Ducted rockets are tricky to properly utilize (need a very specific trajectory), but can really add a lot of impulse if the vehicle is optimized for them. The Soviets got really close to actually deploying one as an ICBM, but the death of the project leader got in the way....

http://astronautix.com/lvs/gnom.htm

Very interesting.  An Isp of 550 is quite impressive, even more so for a solid.  This air augmentation sounds like good juju.  I wonder what would happen if you redesigned Pegasus, or the StratoLaunch rocket, to use air augmentation and adjusted the flight profile accordingly?

For that matter, surely it works on liquid and hybrid engines as well, and maybe SpaceShip Two would be another potential beneficiary.  Well, okay, not SpaceShip Two because they don't have time, but SpaceShip Three or Four.

Hmm, this "specific trajectory" doesn't happen to involve high heating like an airbreathing SSTO, does it?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jarnis on 01/15/2014 11:47 AM
Well, it kinda has to.

If you want to get usable amounts of air from the atmosphere, the air obviously will also generate drag and as speed goes up, friction & heat.

No friction, no heat issues but also no air.

It will be an interesting thing to figure out - weight of heat shielding vs. benefit of "free" oxidizer, considering trajectories and altitudes etc.

I'm sucker for any new ideas people are willing to try in practice but I do feel there is a "danger Will Robinson" element here - the narrow altitude band where you get something useful out of the atmosphere without the drag and friction ruining your day may a big problem; I think it was Elon Musk who commented about the theoretical use of air-breathing rockets in first stage, basically saying "why even try to use air out of the atmosphere, you want to get out of it as quickly as possible".

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/15/2014 09:02 PM
It will be an interesting thing to figure out - weight of heat shielding vs. benefit of "free" oxidizer, considering trajectories and altitudes etc.

Actually, technically it's free reaction mass, not free oxidizer.  A ducted rocket uses the air as reaction mass only, it still caries all its own oxidizer.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 01/16/2014 02:05 AM
Right, it's the same basic principle as a turbofan jet, but rather than using a fan, the ducted rocket is directly entraining the air in the exhaust. Since higher thrust is needed when the rocket is low altitude (where there is more air), the thrust from the duct is quite useful.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jarnis on 01/16/2014 06:33 AM
Thanks for the correction. Now that I think about it more, yeah, you are quite right.

It also means the design then makes more sense.

Still I guess there is a careful tradeoff going on (drag/heating vs. benefits from the duct)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/16/2014 08:14 AM
Interestly they have chosen to setup their R&D in Hawthorne, maybe they are looking at recruiting a few SpaceX staff.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 01/16/2014 02:53 PM
Some slight corrections on "Air Augmented Rocket" engines:

They are MOST useful between zero and around Mach-2 IF they are only "augmenting" the thrust. Most often they simply entrain extra air but they CAN use fuel rich exhaust and act as an "after-burner" but these usually require longer ducts, and have increased drag and thermal issues. If designed properly they can and do act as "Ejector-ramjets" allowing use up to around Mach-4 to 6 depending but the trajctory then has to be shallower to accomodate longer air-breathing time.

From the illustration I don't think AAR is what they are using. An AAR set up has the engine surrounded by the "duct" which hangs down below the exhaust so that the exhaust "entrains" the air and has "intakes" all around the duct front which is usually slightly above the engine.

Frankly we're going to need a lot more information than we have, so this is to YOU Firefly; give us more! :)

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: go4mars on 01/31/2014 02:35 PM
So a pseudo-thrust augmented aerospike, until it gets up to "ramming speed", then after ram mode, staging and RTLS?   Or is aerospike combined with ram-jets at varying efficiencies the whole time in a seamless continuum?

 Is ram aerospike to get around TAN patents?  Or does aerospike work more congruently with ram jets?

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 01/31/2014 03:19 PM
It would be really great if people would put their designs in some other thread, and leave this thread to updates about Firefly systems.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 02/15/2014 06:09 PM
The site has updated a bit. Still no technical details but more on job opportunities.

http://www.fireflyspace.com/career-opportunities/

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: bad_astra on 02/18/2014 04:12 PM
Getting awful crowded in my sky.

Sorry.. always wanted to say that in a Firefly thread.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dragon44 on 02/18/2014 07:41 PM
Interestly they have chosen to setup their R&D in Hawthorne, maybe they are looking at recruiting a few SpaceX staff.

They have an address now on their webpage http://www.fireflyspace.com/ (http://www.fireflyspace.com/). They are on the same street as SpaceX. Walking distance
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 05/05/2014 07:11 AM
Webpage got some vehicle data:

http://www.fireflyspace.com/vehicles/

(http://static.squarespace.com/static/52d2ee3de4b06f651ac1824a/t/5363c153e4b00bbb4dc5a35e/1399046494885/Vehicle800.jpg?format=350w)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jarnis on 05/05/2014 10:15 AM
400kg to LEO is kinda tiny... Reminds me of Falcon 1.

Works as a practice rocket, of course. SpaceX started the same way.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dror on 05/05/2014 10:48 AM
It's a nice looking rocket!
Not air augmented though.
So what advancement does it represent?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 05/05/2014 10:55 AM
Pressure-fed to orbit, eh. Seems kinda pre-SpaceX.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: JBF on 05/05/2014 11:05 AM
A full size aerospike. This will be fun to watch; I've been hoping for some more development on them.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 05/05/2014 11:08 AM
Thanks, R7 -- that's interesting.

It's a nice looking rocket!
Not air augmented though.
So what advancement does it represent?

In addition to the aerospike, the propellant combination will be nearly novel if if flies before a Raptor does, which seems quite possible (Europe's first liquid-propellant rocket, by Max Valier in the 1930s, and a recent rocket by Garvey Space have burned lox/methane, though neither of those was anywhere near being LEO capable).  Is the all-composite design also novel for an orbital launch vehicle?

EDIT:  Typo.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 05/05/2014 11:14 AM
Autogenous pressurization = no helium. Pressurant gases are the propellants themselves.

Looks like what Beal Aerospace should have started with, a "small dumb booster".

400kg is two OG2s. If the price is right and service on time there will be Orbcomm-like customers who would love to be treated as real customers instead of practice ones getting bumped to right for years.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 05/05/2014 11:37 AM
I'm a little surprised the sea-level Isp for the aerospike is only 305 s.  I thought the aerospike's big attraction was its ability to atltiude-compensate.  Maybe the advantage in this application is low weight.  Or could the first-stage Isp be the result of a trade of Isp against propellant density?  Or maybe it allows lower-pressure engines, which would be quite an advantage in a pressure-fed first stage?

I also wonder a bit about the choice of methane.  As far as I can tell from Raptor discussions, methane really shines when used in a staged-combustion cycle, because of its high mass-specific heat capacity.  In a pressure-fed engine, I would think higher-density hydrocarbons -- propane or propylene (used by Garvey) would look relatively attractive.  Maybe it's to do with the autogenous pressurization.

[OK, I'll stop thinking out loud now.]
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 05/05/2014 02:11 PM
Hmm, unless I am misunderstanding the concept, this looks more like an aeroplug than an aerospike (honest question here)?
I presume that the lower Isp is due to the fact that it is pressure fed and not pump fed?
Now I am the one who is speculating...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: JBF on 05/05/2014 02:30 PM
Hmm, unless I am misunderstanding the concept, this looks more like an aeroplug than an aerospike (honest question here)?
I presume that the lower Isp is due to the fact that it is pressure fed and not pump fed?
Now I am the one who is speculating...

The aeroplug design is technically a truncated aerospike.  I'm attaching a paper that goes through the analysis of how much a spike you really need. This paper is directed more toward airplanes the rockets but the principle is the same. What it generally comes down to is how big of an engine you are talking about; the weight and space trade-off of a full spike or a truncated spike vs the efficiency.

Here is the link to a program if you want to experiment with various lengths.  http://aerospike.software.informer.com/2.6/ (http://aerospike.software.informer.com/2.6/)

*grammar correction*

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lampyridae on 05/05/2014 02:47 PM
Must say, I like the name. It's shiny.

:)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 05/05/2014 02:52 PM
Hmm, unless I am misunderstanding the concept, this looks more like an aeroplug than an aerospike (honest question here)?
I presume that the lower Isp is due to the fact that it is pressure fed and not pump fed?
Now I am the one who is speculating...
The aeroplug design is technically a truncated aerospike.

I thought the whole point of calling in an aerospike was that the solid part of the spike was truncated, leaving the rest of the spike to be made up of gas (the "aero").  In this view an engine with a complete solid spike would be simply a spike engine.

Oh, and thanks very much for the paper!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: JBF on 05/05/2014 03:17 PM

I thought the whole point of calling in an aerospike was that the solid part of the spike was truncated, leaving the rest of the spike to be made up of gas (the "aero").  In this view an engine with a complete solid spike would be simply a spike engine.
Looks like you are correct.

From Wikipedia:
Quote
The terminology in the literature surrounding this subject is somewhat confused—the term aerospike was originally used for a truncated plug nozzle with a very rough conical taper and some gas injection, forming an "air spike" to help make up for the absence of the plug tail. However, frequently, a full-length plug nozzle is now called an aerospike.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 05/05/2014 03:32 PM
Interesting info, guys! So I guess the answer is it is an aerospike and an aeroplug depending on who you ask?
One more thing: From the graphic, the plug/spike seems to be more truncated than the 60% cited as optimum in the document provided by JBF, or am I seeing this wrong?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars_J on 05/05/2014 04:04 PM
Interesting... But I'm surprised they bother to have two different stage diameters, if they are so close. But I suppose this helps reduce the fairing mass, and I can't imagine a 400kg payload needing a 6ft fairing.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Vultur on 05/06/2014 04:38 AM
400kg to LEO is kinda tiny... Reminds me of Falcon 1.

Works as a practice rocket, of course. SpaceX started the same way.

Well, there seems to be a lot of interest in small satellites, so I'm not sure there'd be anything "wrong" with being a specific-to-small-payloads launch service, for stuff that would otherwise be a secondary payload. I think that's what LauncherOne is supposed to be too...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jarnis on 05/06/2014 05:13 AM
...also starting small for a new company probably gives them a few more tries at getting it right if/when they run into teething problems.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Coastal Ron on 05/06/2014 05:38 AM
Interestly they have chosen to setup their R&D in Hawthorne, maybe they are looking at recruiting a few SpaceX staff.

They are on the same street as SpaceX. Walking distance

If you're looking for the type of people that like to work on cutting edge stuff, then why not be located near a large employer of such people.  It cuts down on your hiring costs, either for employees of SpaceX that decide to join (don't have to pay relocation costs) or for potential new recruits being flown in to interview at SpaceX and then walking down the street to do a second interview at Firefly.

Happens all the time.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Coastal Ron on 05/06/2014 05:39 AM
...also starting small for a new company probably gives them a few more tries at getting it right if/when they run into teething problems.

Yes, like another NewSpace company we've all been following...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 05/08/2014 05:37 AM
Composite tanks are really interesting. Plug nozzle is also interesting.

If they can get to orbit with pressurized engines on this (and make a bit of profit), then they have a built-in easy upgrade path by converting to turbo engines and substantially increasing the payload.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: DJPledger on 05/08/2014 08:08 AM
Composite tanks are really interesting. Plug nozzle is also interesting.

If they can get to orbit with pressurized engines on this (and make a bit of profit), then they have a built-in easy upgrade path by converting to turbo engines and substantially increasing the payload.
Why not simply scale up the design for greater payload capability while keeping the simplicity of a pressure fed system?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/08/2014 08:24 AM
One article on aerospike engine gave a 23 % LEO payload improvement over contemporary 1st stage engines. If true it is worth the effort of developing this type of engine.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: rklaehn on 05/08/2014 08:58 AM
Composite tanks are really interesting. Plug nozzle is also interesting.

If they can get to orbit with pressurized engines on this (and make a bit of profit), then they have a built-in easy upgrade path by converting to turbo engines and substantially increasing the payload.

I think an aerospike engine is a way to get acceptable Isp out of low chamber pressure like what you get with a pressure fed design. Once you go to pump-fed and higher chamber pressure, the advantage of the aerospike is less pronounced. And if you go to very high chamber pressures like the RD-170 engine family, there is no advantage whatsoever in using an aerospike.

So the aerospike and the pressure-fed design kind of go together.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 05/08/2014 01:42 PM
I think an aerospike engine is a way to get acceptable Isp out of low chamber pressure like what you get with a pressure fed design. Once you go to pump-fed and higher chamber pressure, the advantage of the aerospike is less pronounced. And if you go to very high chamber pressures like the RD-170 engine family, there is no advantage whatsoever in using an aerospike.

So the aerospike and the pressure-fed design kind of go together.
I am confused. How does this fit in with the aerospike engines developed (or at least envisioned) for various RLV programs, like the X33. Those were all high performance, high Isp pump fed systems.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: go4mars on 05/08/2014 02:12 PM
It seems to me that on a future iteration, aerospike would be advantageous on re-entry too.  Exo-atmospheric/re-entry burns, then final propulsive landing should be more efficient.  I'm still curious whether/if there is much formal connection with SpaceX (shareholders).   

I like their homepage "[email protected]"
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 05/08/2014 02:23 PM
Those were all high performance, high Isp pump fed systems.

XRS-2200 wasn't particularly stellar performance wise, 58bar Pc 428/338 Isp vac/sea level. SSME beats these with flying colors, RS-68A looses 14s in vac but beats sea level 24s.

The latest Firefly aerospike seems to be somewhat compromised; there are discrete small bell engines instead of just combustion chambers feeding the spike.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Helodriver on 05/08/2014 02:39 PM
With a small lightweight and simple rocket, I wonder if they will be going after the "launch from anywhere, anytime" market that the Pegasus, Taurus, and Falcon 1 were originally shooting for. The DOD has long had their eyes on responsive space launch but all the vehicles that came along still never quite met that goal. It will be interesting to see if DARPA throws some money their way in the near future and a transportable expeditionary infrastructure and processing flow develops. Firefly to Omelek anyone?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: butters on 05/08/2014 02:46 PM
With a small lightweight and simple rocket, I wonder if they will be going after the "launch from anywhere, anytime" market that the Pegasus, Taurus, and Falcon 1 were originally shooting for. The DOD has long had their eyes on responsive space launch but all the vehicles that came along still never quite met that goal. It will be interesting to see if DARPA throws some money their way in the near future and a transportable expeditionary infrastructure and processing flow develops. Firefly to Omelek anyone?

I think SpaceX demonstrated that the logistics of launching from Omelek just weren't worth it. Maybe it would be more reasonable with solids, but liquid rockets and their ground support equipment don't travel very well.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 05/08/2014 03:13 PM
XRS-2200 wasn't particularly stellar performance wise, 58bar Pc 428/338 Isp vac/sea level. SSME beats these with flying colors, RS-68A looses 14s in vac but beats sea level 24s.

Well, the comparison is not quite fair. First of all the XRS-2200 had a vac Isp of 436, not 338. Second, IIRC, it was a much simpler gas generator engine, while the SSME is a staged combustion engine.
The RS 68 looses 26 in vac from all I know.
The bigger RS 2200 was supposed to have even better values (also quite amazing for a gas generator engine):
Isp was 347 at sea level and 466 in a vacuum, which would have been almost equivalent to the SSME with a  simpler and more robust gas generator engine and a higher throttle range (down to 20%).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: baldusi on 05/08/2014 04:20 PM
XRS-2200 wasn't particularly stellar performance wise, 58bar Pc 428/338 Isp vac/sea level. SSME beats these with flying colors, RS-68A looses 14s in vac but beats sea level 24s.

Well, the comparison is not quite fair. First of all the XRS-2200 had a vac Isp of 436, not 338. Second, IIRC, it was a much simpler gas generator engine, while the SSME is a staged combustion engine.
The RS 68 looses 26 in vac from all I know.
The bigger RS 2200 was supposed to have even better values (also quite amazing for a gas generator engine):
Isp was 347 at sea level and 466 in a vacuum, which would have been almost equivalent to the SSME with a  simpler and more robust gas generator engine and a higher throttle range (down to 20%).
XRS-2200 was an expander cycle. The whole point of making it lineal was that you could get the surface to volume sort of fixed and thus could scale thrust a lot more than a traditional expander. Thus, you should compare its values not to SSME, but to RL10. And don't forget to add the T/W, which was the critical measure that killed that engine.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 05/08/2014 04:37 PM
XRS-2200 was an expander cycle. The whole point of making it lineal was that you could get the surface to volume sort of fixed and thus could scale thrust a lot more than a traditional expander. Thus, you should compare its values not to SSME, but to RL10. And don't forget to add the T/W, which was the critical measure that killed that engine.
It was not me who did the comparison to SSME, but R7. Hmm, all sources I find state that XRS2200 was a GG cycle, like the J2. Maybe the XRS 2200 was an expander, but RS2200 was meant to be a gas generator, at least according to Astronautix. The RL 10 is an amazing engine, but expander cycles cant scale beyond a certain size from what I understand (unless they use linear aerospikes).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: A_M_Swallow on 05/08/2014 05:23 PM
Interesting... But I'm surprised they bother to have two different stage diameters, if they are so close. But I suppose this helps reduce the fairing mass, and I can't imagine a 400kg payload needing a 6ft fairing.

400 kg payload should permit the launching to LEO of 100-200 cubesats.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 05/08/2014 06:11 PM
all sources I find state that XRS2200 was a GG cycle, like the J2.

Yes, it used J2 derived turbomachinery. I had incorrect source for XRS vac Isp. My previous point was not to compare engine cycles but note that there were existing comparable conventional engines so what's the benefit? Aerospikes don't seem inherently cheaper and XRS-2200 had a weight problem.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: baldusi on 05/08/2014 07:26 PM
XRS-2200 was an expander cycle. The whole point of making it lineal was that you could get the surface to volume sort of fixed and thus could scale thrust a lot more than a traditional expander. Thus, you should compare its values not to SSME, but to RL10. And don't forget to add the T/W, which was the critical measure that killed that engine.
It was not me who did the comparison to SSME, but R7. Hmm, all sources I find state that XRS2200 was a GG cycle, like the J2. Maybe the XRS 2200 was an expander, but RS2200 was meant to be a gas generator, at least according to Astronautix. The RL 10 is an amazing engine, but expander cycles cant scale beyond a certain size from what I understand (unless they use linear aerospikes).
You were right. I don't know where did I got that it was RL derived. Probably some comments that linear aerospike could solve the expander scale limitations. BTW, they state that they used the J-2S turbomachinery. But I understood that it was a tap-off cycle. While they clearly speak of a gas generator. Now I'm confused.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: rklaehn on 05/08/2014 07:41 PM
I think an aerospike engine is a way to get acceptable Isp out of low chamber pressure like what you get with a pressure fed design. Once you go to pump-fed and higher chamber pressure, the advantage of the aerospike is less pronounced. And if you go to very high chamber pressures like the RD-170 engine family, there is no advantage whatsoever in using an aerospike.

So the aerospike and the pressure-fed design kind of go together.
I am confused. How does this fit in with the aerospike engines developed (or at least envisioned) for various RLV programs, like the X33. Those were all high performance, high Isp pump fed systems.

Any of the real rocket experts correct me if I got this wrong:

An aerospike buys you altitude compensation. So while it can not magically improve your Isp if you have low chamber pressure and high ambient pressure, it will adjust (increase) its expansion ratio continuously as you get into thinner air. So you get a much better average Isp over the flight profile of a typical first stage.

For an SSTO like X-33 was supposed to evolve into, altitude compensation is even more important: it is a way to get a very high expansion ratio, like an upper stage engine, during the majority of the flight that happens in vacuum, while still retaining the ability to work at sea level.

But this is only really relevant if you have a low to medium chamber pressure. If you have a high chamber pressure, you can have a large expansion ratio even at sea level.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 05/08/2014 07:59 PM

Any of the real rocket experts correct me if I got this wrong:

An aerospike buys you altitude compensation. So while it can not magically improve your Isp if you have low chamber pressure and high ambient pressure, it will adjust (increase) its expansion ratio continuously as you get into thinner air. So you get a much better average Isp over the flight profile of a typical first stage.

For an SSTO like X-33 was supposed to evolve into, altitude compensation is even more important: it is a way to get a very high expansion ratio, like an upper stage engine, during the majority of the flight that happens in vacuum, while still retaining the ability to work at sea level.

But this is only really relevant if you have a low to medium chamber pressure. If you have a high chamber pressure, you can have a large expansion ratio even at sea level.
That is what I understood as well, which is why I was confused by the comments by rklaehn.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 05/08/2014 09:17 PM
The latest Firefly aerospike seems to be somewhat compromised; there are discrete small bell engines instead of just combustion chambers feeding the spike.

Not really "compromised" as it's much easier to cluster small engine 'bells' into a clustered-plug-nozzle configuration than it is to cluster combustion chambers. Speaking of which the set up reminds me of the clustered-plug-nozzle Garvey tested last year for an "un-named" company...

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dror on 05/09/2014 12:41 PM
400 kg payload should permit the launching to LEO of 100-200 cubesats.

Falcon9 -> $56.5m, 13,150kg
Firefly -> 400 kg -> $1.7m
Do you think they can get so low?

At 100 cubesats its 17,000$ a piece.
At 200 cubesats its 8,500$ a piece.
?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: A_M_Swallow on 05/09/2014 11:26 PM
400 kg payload should permit the launching to LEO of 100-200 cubesats.

Falcon9 -> $56.5m, 13,150kg
Firefly -> 400 kg -> $1.7m
Do you think they can get so low?

At 100 cubesats its 17,000$ a piece.
At 200 cubesats its 8,500$ a piece.
?

I do not know sufficient about the firm to know if they can meet the $1.7m price and make a profit.

This website says that launching a cubesat costs over $100,000 so a new firm launching a U2 for $17,000 is probably very competitively priced.
http://www.diyspaceexploration.com/what-are-cubesats (http://www.diyspaceexploration.com/what-are-cubesats)

A secondary payload on the Falcon 9 has to go into nearly the same plane as the main payload.  The Firefly can go into a very different plane from say the ISS, minimising the chance of a crash.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Patchouli on 05/10/2014 03:54 PM
Autogenous pressurization = no helium. Pressurant gases are the propellants themselves.

Looks like what Beal Aerospace should have started with, a "small dumb booster".

400kg is two OG2s. If the price is right and service on time there will be Orbcomm-like customers who would love to be treated as real customers instead of practice ones getting bumped to right for years.

In theory getting rid of the helium pressurization system could be a big cost saver.

More interesting would be seeing an aerospike actually fly on something capable of going into orbit.

I heard of talk of their advantage over bell nozzles for years it would be interesting to see it in practice.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/10/2014 11:35 PM
I think an aerospike engine is a way to get acceptable Isp out of low chamber pressure like what you get with a pressure fed design. Once you go to pump-fed and higher chamber pressure, the advantage of the aerospike is less pronounced. And if you go to very high chamber pressures like the RD-170 engine family, there is no advantage whatsoever in using an aerospike.

So the aerospike and the pressure-fed design kind of go together.
I am confused. How does this fit in with the aerospike engines developed (or at least envisioned) for various RLV programs, like the X33. Those were all high performance, high Isp pump fed systems.

Any of the real rocket experts correct me if I got this wrong:

An aerospike buys you altitude compensation. So while it can not magically improve your Isp if you have low chamber pressure and high ambient pressure, it will adjust (increase) its expansion ratio continuously as you get into thinner air. So you get a much better average Isp over the flight profile of a typical first stage.

For an SSTO like X-33 was supposed to evolve into, altitude compensation is even more important: it is a way to get a very high expansion ratio, like an upper stage engine, during the majority of the flight that happens in vacuum, while still retaining the ability to work at sea level.

But this is only really relevant if you have a low to medium chamber pressure. If you have a high chamber pressure, you can have a large expansion ratio even at sea level.
Yup! But I think aerospikes and plug nozzles aren't necessarily worth the hassle. I'd like to see a dual-bell or something, too.

I must say I'm a little disappointed they got rid of air-augmentation. I'm not an air-breathing fanboy, but I was interested that someone seemed to be genuinely attempting it in order to expand the overall trade space. I hope they try it anyway.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: DJPledger on 05/11/2014 07:56 AM
Autogenous pressurization = no helium. Pressurant gases are the propellants themselves.

Looks like what Beal Aerospace should have started with, a "small dumb booster".

400kg is two OG2s. If the price is right and service on time there will be Orbcomm-like customers who would love to be treated as real customers instead of practice ones getting bumped to right for years.

In theory getting rid of the helium pressurization system could be a big cost saver.

More interesting would be seeing an aerospike actually fly on something capable of going into orbit.

I heard of talk of their advantage over bell nozzles for years it would be interesting to see it in practice.


Also getting rid of the helium pressurization system gets rid of all the problems associated with it and so Firefly's LV should theoretically be more reliable than ones with it. Just look at other companies' LV's which have had helium problems.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 05/11/2014 10:59 AM
I must say I'm a little disappointed they got rid of air-augmentation. I'm not an air-breathing fanboy, but I was interested that someone seemed to be genuinely attempting it in order to expand the overall trade space. I hope they try it anyway.

Ditto.  It seemed like a good way of taking advantage of the atmosphere without letting wings-and-wheels thinking completely hijack the project.  I'll bet they had a good reason for dropping it, and it would be really interesting to know how their analysis went.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dcporter on 05/11/2014 07:59 PM
I must say I'm a little disappointed they got rid of air-augmentation. I'm not an air-breathing fanboy, but I was interested that someone seemed to be genuinely attempting it in order to expand the overall trade space. I hope they try it anyway.

Ditto.  It seemed like a good way of taking advantage of the atmosphere without letting wings-and-wheels thinking completely hijack the project.  I'll bet they had a good reason for dropping it, and it would be really interesting to know how their analysis went.

"Yikes. No wonder this has never been done before."
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 05/12/2014 12:31 AM
"Yikes. No wonder this has never been done before."

Which is another way of saying it's more trouble that it's worth.

On the other hand, large carbon-fibre tanks have even less "heritage", but they must be worth their trouble.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: baldusi on 05/12/2014 02:49 AM

On the other hand, large carbon-fibre tanks have even less "heritage", but they must be worth their trouble.
I believe it's the other way around. There are prototype tanks in validation right now. According to some calculations, composite tanks could give you 4% to 8% extra performance, which is not thaaaat much. But everybody in the rest of industries is already using composite tanks. Space uses a lot of composites. It's just that cryo tanks require some extra advances to make sense.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dasmoth on 05/12/2014 08:37 AM
One nice property of composites is that you can often scale up manufacturing quite cheaply.  Doing that for something as big and as performance-critical as a rocket fuel tank might not be entirely straightforward... but if Firefly do manage that, they could end up with some seriously cheap rockets.

I wonder if they're hoping for an expendable vehicle that's price-competitive with reusable options?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 05/12/2014 09:57 AM
Here's the picture in question, for posterity's sake.

It does indeed look like four hypersonic inlets/exhausts feeding onto a common plug nozzle. Hydrocarbon scramjet?
Only if those "landing legs" are in the retracted position.

They look more like inlets to me. IOW something from the William Escher school of space propulsion.

Which is an interesting take on propulsion systems for a start up company to say the least.  :o

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 05/12/2014 10:25 AM
We just don't have enough information! Dang it! "One of our themes at Firefly will be transparency" my left foot! It has been OVER 24 hours since markusic posted the first time, and we still have no further information! What is this, "Blue Origin light?" Information wants to be free! We demand details! We demand schematics! Blueprints! Icecream!
True.  :)

But am I alone in thinking this is one weird little corner of the propulsion/size/propellant trade space to be going after?

If they've raised $100m and it is "small" this thing will have a $/lb to orbit price that makes the ATK Orbital Pegasus look cheap.

And you're right it's 24 hrs since kickoff and 1 tweet and a picture? Are they saying since a picture is worth a 1000 words that's 8 tweets?  :)

Rand Simbergs comment was "Color me skeptical." With the information given so far I'd agree.  :(

Thing is the 90's RLV interest was driven by multiple LEO and MEO comm sat constellations and the belief they'd need repeated low cost orbital access as the life expectancy in LEO is (relatively) short.

AFAIK there is no pervasive buzz like that and small sat payloads can't afford primary payload launch prices, mostly because they are not made for profit.

So who's the customer?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: docmordrid on 05/12/2014 10:46 AM
DoD launch on need. They have several small sat programs in the fire, and ISTM this may be cheaper/simpler than the idea they have of air launching from an F-15.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/12/2014 04:24 PM
The LEO mega-constellations of the 1990s lead to still-large but non-mega constellations around 1999 and the early 2000s. They are now getting their first major refresh, but not nearly as much buzz (however, Iridium, Orbcomm and the like are profitable, much better than the late 1990s when they went out of business). However, I think there's still a decent chance of a mega-constellation coming online in the next 10 years. We've learned a lot since the 1990s and there have been some rumblings. IMHO, it's a /good/ thing there hasn't been a ton of buzz about it. Let the systems stand on their own merits instead of empty buzz. And now there's launch capacity and potentially low cost systems (F9R and  MAYBE Firefly) to make it feasible.

But Firefly has a long road ahead of them.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 05/15/2014 09:47 PM
That would mesh with the apparent focus on sun-synchronous/high-inclination orbits.

IIRC, the only small launcher to come out of the first constellation rush that actually flew was Pegasus, and even that was commercial failure (nearly all Pegasus launches since the initial ORBCOMM constellation were NASA). Hopefully this one is more successful.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 07/04/2014 11:36 PM
New website: http://www.fireflyspace.com/
Includes specs for the first launch vehicle: http://www.fireflyspace.com/vehicles/firefly-a

I think those ISP numbers are a tad optimistic :)

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/05/2014 12:58 AM
Taken on board some of SpaceX ideas of common engines/parts between stages. If they can make the aerospike engine work they will become leaders in this technology.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/05/2014 04:31 AM
Just watched their promo video looks like they plan to do a heavy version and reusability in future. This could be a another SpaceX in the making, but unlike SpaceX they will the probably stay in the falcon 1 class market for a while.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/05/2014 06:35 AM
Just watched their promo video looks like they plan to do a heavy version and reusability in future. This could be a another SpaceX in the making, but unlike SpaceX they will the probably stay in the falcon 1 class market for a while.

I think it's going to be very, very hard trying to be the second SpaceX, because the first SpaceX is already there and has a huge lead.

They're targeting a price of $8-$9 million per launch for 400 kg to LEO at the same time SpaceX is targeting $7 million per launch of reusable Falcon 9, with 1.5 orders of magnitude more payload to LEO.  If both Firefly and SpaceX meet their targets, Firefly will go out of business.

Even if Firefly meets their targets and SpaceX doesn't, it's hard for me to see Firefly being able to get enough business to justify their investment to develop the technology.  If there really are mega-constellations of thousands of very small satellites, there will be many deployed to each orbital plane and it will be cheaper to deploy them in bulk from Falcon 9, as Orbcomm is doing.  If there are so few to each orbital plane that it's cheaper to use Firefly, then the volumes for Firefly will be too low to justify their initial investment.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/05/2014 06:46 AM
That's 100% right, so assuming they are not clueless, a good guess is that this is their F1, and their road map is leading to a much heavier launcher.  The "Alpha" designation supports that guess.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: IslandPlaya on 07/05/2014 10:14 AM

...with 1.5 orders of magnitude more payload to LEO.  If both Firefly and SpaceX meet their targets, Firefly will go out of business.

1.5 orders of magnitude increase means x31.62, not the x15 that I think you meant to say.
 :D
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 07/05/2014 01:49 PM

...with 1.5 orders of magnitude more payload to LEO.  If both Firefly and SpaceX meet their targets, Firefly will go out of business.

1.5 orders of magnitude increase means x31.62, not the x15 that I think you meant to say.
 :D
400kg*31=12400kg, about a reusable F9R.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: IslandPlaya on 07/05/2014 01:53 PM

...with 1.5 orders of magnitude more payload to LEO.  If both Firefly and SpaceX meet their targets, Firefly will go out of business.

1.5 orders of magnitude increase means x31.62, not the x15 that I think you meant to say.
 :D
400kg*31=12400kg, about a reusable F9R.
Whoops. You are correct of course. I was thinking mass to GTO for some bizzare reason.  :-[
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ncb1397 on 07/05/2014 02:13 PM

...with 1.5 orders of magnitude more payload to LEO.  If both Firefly and SpaceX meet their targets, Firefly will go out of business.

1.5 orders of magnitude increase means x31.62, not the x15 that I think you meant to say.
 :D
400kg*31=12400kg, about a reusable F9R.

If I am not mistaken, a 7 million dollar Falcon launch would require both stage re-use which would make it quite a bit lower than 12,400kg(probably more like 9000 kg given the 1/3 rule of thumb). The landing gear, heatshield, fuel, engines and possibly payload bay for 2nd stage reuse could easily add up to ~4000 kg.

Anyways, SpaceX meeting its targets could help startups like Firefly get interest from investors. Re-use doesn't automatically mean that every other space launch company will go out of business. They would be wise to consider reusability though.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/05/2014 10:43 PM
Firefly's startup should be easier than SpaceX.  They are employing staff from various newspace companies with experience in developing new engines and manufacturing technologies.  3D printers will radically reduce development and manufacturing costs of new engines and complex LV components. Financing should be easier as there a more traditional investors willing invest in newspace startups.

 SpaceX never had these advantages 12 years ago.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Tev on 07/05/2014 10:44 PM
I haven't found this anywhere else, so I'll ask here: Does this feel like a SpaceX spin-off to anyone else?

Someone already mentioned it here, but it needs more emphasizis I think:
Locations, duh.
The font for their logo seems to be the same (as does their marketing style).
They want "NewSpace" engineers.
The ideas are basically the same - start up small and simple, then make your way towards bigger and possibly reusable rockets. And common parts between stages.

And just when SpaceX is slowly (problems notwithstanding) becoming "standard" launcher company - new and awfuly similar company shows up, trying something new and fresh (who was talking about offering the "cutting edge" development to bright minds?). Conveniently targeting market complementing that of SpaceX. And by the time this new company might reach SpaceX's capability - but with potentially much better tech and design - they will have moved on to bigger rockets and getting to Mars for real.

Imo a few more or less rebellious engineers ("this aerospike stuff is AWESOME!") talked with Elon and he gave them few bucks and maybe a few tech. Because keeping it in house doesn't really fit his goals and maybe because he realizes that by the time Falcon 9 will be fully reusable they will have enough experience to design much better reusable rockets, so he wants to keep potential competitors close. Or even actually own them?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 07/05/2014 10:52 PM
.. or they're just positioning themselves to be bought by SpaceX once they have some success.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/06/2014 01:56 AM
Firefly's startup should be easier than SpaceX.  They are employing staff from various newspace companies with experience in developing new engines and manufacturing technologies.  3D printers will radically reduce development and manufacturing costs of new engines and complex LV components. Financing should be easier as there a more traditional investors willing invest in newspace startups.

 SpaceX never had these advantages 12 years ago.

Yeah, I agree that there are some ways that they'll have advantages SpaceX didn't when they started.

But they also have some pretty significant disadvantages compared with SpaceX at that point.  They don't have a crazy billionaire willing to throw every cent he has into it just for the sake of improving the lot of humanity, regardless of the financial return.

They also have an incumbent (SpaceX today) that is much more efficient and cost-focused than the incumbents SpaceX faced when they started.  SpaceX had a plausible story that they could produce a product that was far superior to the incumbents of the time.  Firefly has a plausible story that they could produce a product that matches the incumbent today.

I think Firefly's best shot is if SpaceX really can make both first and second stage reusability work, drive down costs by two orders of magnitude, and drive up the size of the entire launch market by a huge amount.  Then, the launch market will be big enough to support Firefly and SpaceX and Firefly will be in a good position to be the second supplier to the market.

Even if Firefly would be capable of doing that, though, they have a long road ahead of them to get there, and they could fail at any point along it.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: sublimemarsupial on 07/06/2014 02:07 AM
I like their system design trade offs for the vehicle (as compared to Falcon 1), giving up some performance to reduce system complexity by going pressure fed and trying to make up for it with a higher ISP propellent combo, altitude compensating engine, and lower dry mass (with the composite tanks). Am curious why they went with different diameter first and second stages though. Hope they can make it work successfully, and we'll see an Alpha up and flying in a few years.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: A_M_Swallow on 07/06/2014 02:25 AM
SpaceX is going to Mars paid for by trips to the ISS.

Firefly Space Systems could for example go to the Moon paid for by taking cargo to the commercial LEO spacestation(s).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 07/06/2014 11:13 PM
They want "NewSpace" engineers.
The ideas are basically the same - start up small and simple, then make your way towards bigger and possibly reusable rockets. And common parts between stages.



I think that's just part of iterative engineering. You have to build upon your successes and learn from failures. That requires prototyping and lots of iterations.

I like their system design trade offs for the vehicle (as compared to Falcon 1), giving up some performance to reduce system complexity by going pressure fed and trying to make up for it with a higher ISP propellent combo, altitude compensating engine, and lower dry mass (with the composite tanks). Am curious why they went with different diameter first and second stages though. Hope they can make it work successfully, and we'll see an Alpha up and flying in a few years.

Their "heavy" vehicle has the same diameter upper stage and fairing while the boosters are smaller diameter: http://www.fireflyspace.com/vehicles/firefly-b

I found that interesting.


I also found some assets they have not published: http://imgur.com/a/Mt6zq
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/07/2014 06:24 AM
They want "NewSpace" engineers.
The ideas are basically the same - start up small and simple, then make your way towards bigger and possibly reusable rockets. And common parts between stages.



I think that's just part of iterative engineering. You have to build upon your successes and learn from failures. That requires prototyping and lots of iterations.

I like their system design trade offs for the vehicle (as compared to Falcon 1), giving up some performance to reduce system complexity by going pressure fed and trying to make up for it with a higher ISP propellent combo, altitude compensating engine, and lower dry mass (with the composite tanks). Am curious why they went with different diameter first and second stages though. Hope they can make it work successfully, and we'll see an Alpha up and flying in a few years.

Their "heavy" vehicle has the same diameter upper stage and fairing while the boosters are smaller diameter: http://www.fireflyspace.com/vehicles/firefly-b

I found that interesting.


I also found some assets they have not published: temp bana/Mt6zq

The -b url, heh, not-even-obscurity ...

Your last line, I don't follow.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Cinder on 07/07/2014 06:49 AM
It looks like a URL-shortener format, but using that URL segment on the top few URL shortener websites' syntax doesn't seem to work.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 07/07/2014 01:43 PM
Our team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at various New Space companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

worth the note..
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/07/2014 05:18 PM
As much as I appreciates's SpaceX's mojo, I don't generally subscribe to "newspace" as anything that has promise. 

Especially since half of newSpace is sub-orbital stuff which is really completely different from orbital launch (a distinction they work very hard to blur).  Snother thing that characterizes lots of newspace companies is that the PR is not in proportion to anything they actually achieve.

To me, Firefly stands out from the crowd and looks like a worthy effort (can't really know more at this early stage), but hiring people from newspace companies is not something I'm impressed with.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Coastal Ron on 07/07/2014 05:30 PM
...but hiring people from newspace companies is not something I'm impressed with.

Working on a startup takes a different mentality than working at a large, established company.

A startup is about risk, since there are so many unknowns.  Steve Blank, a famous entrepreneur and educator says of a startup:

"A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model."

An existing company has already proven out it's business model, and the employees it hires perpetuate that business model.  They don't have to think "outside the box" so to speak.

So if you're starting up a "NewSpace" company, you're more likely to hire people that have come from prior startups than you are from "OldSpace" companies.  And people that work on startups are more likely to be self-starters, independent workers, and able to do more than just their discipline.

That's not to say those types of people don't exist in large, established companies, but unless they are working on new projects they tend not to stay.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/07/2014 05:43 PM
...but hiring people from newspace companies is not something I'm impressed with.

Working on a startup takes a different mentality than working at a large, established company.

A startup is about risk, since there are so many unknowns.  Steve Blank, a famous entrepreneur and educator says of a startup:

"A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model."

An existing company has already proven out it's business model, and the employees it hires perpetuate that business model.  They don't have to think "outside the box" so to speak.

So if you're starting up a "NewSpace" company, you're more likely to hire people that have come from prior startups than you are from "OldSpace" companies.  And people that work on startups are more likely to be self-starters, independent workers, and able to do more than just their discipline.

That's not to say those types of people don't exist in large, established companies, but unless they are working on new projects they tend not to stay.

Firefly has to hire people that are comfortable working at a startup environment.  Sure.  It's a necessary condition, but not sufficient

Firefly are trying to build a kick-ass rocket.  They need good engineers, whether they come from established or startup companies. 

The track record of BO is not stellar.  VG, don't even get me started.  SpaceX ex-employees?  by definition it's a problematic approach.

If the technical leadership is in place (which the CEO had better taken care of as he was establishing the company) then what he needs is just good all-around engineers with open minds.  You can find those in many places.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/07/2014 06:48 PM
If the technical leadership is in place (which the CEO had better taken care of as he was establishing the company) then what he needs is just good all-around engineers with open minds.  You can find those in many places.

I think you are greatly underestimating the importance of company culture.  As someone who has worked at very small start-ups and a large company, I can tell you the difference is like night and day.  It's definitely not just a question of good engineers.  Good engineers in a large company learn ways of doing things that are very different from what good engineers at start-ups learn.  Also, the temperaments of people who choose the large companies tends to be very different from the temperaments of people who choose the start-ups.  The people who will work well in a start-up are far more likely to be found in another start-up than in a large company.  At least that's what I've found to be true in Silicon Valley.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/07/2014 07:14 PM
If the technical leadership is in place (which the CEO had better taken care of as he was establishing the company) then what he needs is just good all-around engineers with open minds.  You can find those in many places.

I think you are greatly underestimating the importance of company culture.  As someone who has worked at very small start-ups and a large company, I can tell you the difference is like night and day.  It's definitely not just a question of good engineers.  Good engineers in a large company learn ways of doing things that are very different from what good engineers at start-ups learn.  Also, the temperaments of people who choose the large companies tends to be very different from the temperaments of people who choose the start-ups.  The people who will work well in a start-up are far more likely to be found in another start-up than in a large company.  At least that's what I've found to be true in Silicon Valley.

Not underestimating it at all.  Company culture is immensely important. And bad company culture is like a cancer that you often can't fix without killing the patient. And employees can carry company culture with them.  No argument there - seen it happen.

But I am not sure the company culture in some of the aforementioned start-ups is what you want.  Too often, especially since the .com age, you get start-ups whose culture is not that of engineering, but that of PR.  They do not even aim to become a viable company.  They follow the "paradigm dejour" instead of thinking things through from first principles.

Hiring is very difficult and critically important.  Firefly started off in a direction I like, I'd hate to see it become a talk-only company.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Coastal Ron on 07/07/2014 07:21 PM
If the technical leadership is in place (which the CEO had better taken care of as he was establishing the company) then what he needs is just good all-around engineers with open minds.  You can find those in many places.

I think you are greatly underestimating the importance of company culture.  As someone who has worked at very small start-ups and a large company, I can tell you the difference is like night and day.  It's definitely not just a question of good engineers.  Good engineers in a large company learn ways of doing things that are very different from what good engineers at start-ups learn.  Also, the temperaments of people who choose the large companies tends to be very different from the temperaments of people who choose the start-ups.  The people who will work well in a start-up are far more likely to be found in another start-up than in a large company.  At least that's what I've found to be true in Silicon Valley.

Well said.

Another difference too is that startups reward people that work without rules, whereas large established companies punish people that work without rules.

That's not a knock against large established companies, since if you remember what the definition of a startup is established companies have already figured out their winning formula, and for the most part they just need people with defined skill-sets to follow the formula.  So rules and procedures are key for them to provide a consistent product or service.

But startups aren't at that point yet, so different modes of operation are needed.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/07/2014 07:24 PM
If the technical leadership is in place (which the CEO had better taken care of as he was establishing the company) then what he needs is just good all-around engineers with open minds.  You can find those in many places.

I think you are greatly underestimating the importance of company culture.  As someone who has worked at very small start-ups and a large company, I can tell you the difference is like night and day.  It's definitely not just a question of good engineers.  Good engineers in a large company learn ways of doing things that are very different from what good engineers at start-ups learn.  Also, the temperaments of people who choose the large companies tends to be very different from the temperaments of people who choose the start-ups.  The people who will work well in a start-up are far more likely to be found in another start-up than in a large company.  At least that's what I've found to be true in Silicon Valley.

Not underestimating it at all.  Company culture is immensely important. And bad company culture is like a cancer that you often can't fix without killing the patient. And employees can carry company culture with them.  No argument there - seen it happen.

But I am not sure the company culture in some of the aforementioned start-ups is what you want.  Too often, especially since the .com age, you get start-ups whose culture is not that of engineering, but that of PR.  They do not even aim to become a viable company.  They follow the "paradigm dejour" instead of thinking things through from first principles.

Hiring is very difficult and critically important.  Firefly started off in a direction I like, I'd hate to see it become a talk-only company.

I completely agree with you that there are PR-oriented start-ups and there are engineering-oriented start-ups.  Not all start-ups are created equal.  Hiring people from the wrong start-ups isn't very helpful.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Coastal Ron on 07/07/2014 07:30 PM
But I am not sure the company culture in some of the aforementioned start-ups is what you want.  Too often, especially since the .com age, you get start-ups whose culture is not that of engineering, but that of PR.  They do not even aim to become a viable company.  They follow the "paradigm dejour" instead of thinking things through from first principles.

Not sure why you pick on startups about this, since large established companies do this all the time.  I remember when 6-Sigma was all the rage, but at least in our company it was just part of their PR, not part of the culture.

And let's remember that pretty much by definition most startups fail, for many reasons, but mainly because they don't get any "customer traction".  So PR is pretty much a requirement, especially these days when you pretty much have to manage your image as soon as you start because people are already talking about you on blogs...   ;)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: hkultala on 07/07/2014 07:49 PM

Their "heavy" vehicle has the same diameter upper stage and fairing while the boosters are smaller diameter: http://www.fireflyspace.com/vehicles/firefly-b

I found that interesting.

So the heavy has boosters and bigger second stage.
Payload wil propable be about 3 times more to LEO, or even more improvement to higher orbits (due more effective stages).

There does not seem to be any details about the beta rocket just the picture.

The engine configuration of the boosters looks strange though. Less engines than on the core stage??

It would be logical to have more, to give better T/W ratio and to get rid of the boosters earlier.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 07/07/2014 08:02 PM
...but hiring people from newspace companies is not something I'm impressed with.

Working on a startup takes a different mentality than working at a large, established company.

A startup is about risk, since there are so many unknowns.  Steve Blank, a famous entrepreneur and educator says of a startup:

"A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model."

An existing company has already proven out it's business model, and the employees it hires perpetuate that business model.  They don't have to think "outside the box" so to speak.

So if you're starting up a "NewSpace" company, you're more likely to hire people that have come from prior startups than you are from "OldSpace" companies.  And people that work on startups are more likely to be self-starters, independent workers, and able to do more than just their discipline.

That's not to say those types of people don't exist in large, established companies, but unless they are working on new projects they tend not to stay.

Firefly has to hire people that are comfortable working at a startup environment.  Sure.  It's a necessary condition, but not sufficient

Firefly are trying to build a kick-ass rocket.  They need good engineers, whether they come from established or startup companies. 

The track record of BO is not stellar.  VG, don't even get me started.  SpaceX ex-employees?  by definition it's a problematic approach.

If the technical leadership is in place (which the CEO had better taken care of as he was establishing the company) then what he needs is just good all-around engineers with open minds.  You can find those in many places.

Nothing wrong with "seasoned engineers" brought in from different company cultures.   If decent management is there they can focus on a good product and service. 

From the looks of it, the company is going from some old concepts, and reworking them with modern methods.  The proof will be in the finished product 8)
 
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/07/2014 08:23 PM
But I am not sure the company culture in some of the aforementioned start-ups is what you want.  Too often, especially since the .com age, you get start-ups whose culture is not that of engineering, but that of PR.  They do not even aim to become a viable company.  They follow the "paradigm dejour" instead of thinking things through from first principles.

Not sure why you pick on startups about this, since large established companies do this all the time.  I remember when 6-Sigma was all the rage, but at least in our company it was just part of their PR, not part of the culture.

And let's remember that pretty much by definition most startups fail, for many reasons, but mainly because they don't get any "customer traction".  So PR is pretty much a requirement, especially these days when you pretty much have to manage your image as soon as you start because people are already talking about you on blogs...   ;)

I wasn't picking on start-ups in general.

I was responding to the original line of "They are hiring people from BO, VG, and ex-SpaceX employees" yay!

Just didn't feel that enthusiastic about this hiring profile.  Coming from a start-up is not necessarily a good indicator that you're a good open minded engineer.  That's all.


Plus, what Prober just said.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 07/07/2014 10:50 PM
They want "NewSpace" engineers.
The ideas are basically the same - start up small and simple, then make your way towards bigger and possibly reusable rockets. And common parts between stages.



I think that's just part of iterative engineering. You have to build upon your successes and learn from failures. That requires prototyping and lots of iterations.

I like their system design trade offs for the vehicle (as compared to Falcon 1), giving up some performance to reduce system complexity by going pressure fed and trying to make up for it with a higher ISP propellent combo, altitude compensating engine, and lower dry mass (with the composite tanks). Am curious why they went with different diameter first and second stages though. Hope they can make it work successfully, and we'll see an Alpha up and flying in a few years.

Their "heavy" vehicle has the same diameter upper stage and fairing while the boosters are smaller diameter: http://www.fireflyspace.com/vehicles/firefly-b

I found that interesting.


I also found some assets they have not published: temp bana/Mt6zq

The -b url, heh, not-even-obscurity ...

Your last line, I don't follow.

Sorry it's imgur. It seems to be banned here for some reason.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Coastal Ron on 07/07/2014 11:05 PM
Coming from a start-up is not necessarily a good indicator that you're a good open minded engineer.  That's all.

And coming from an "OldSpace" company shows that you are a good open minded engineer?

I'm not saying that good open minded engineers don't exist at "OldSpace" companies, just that by virtue of how startups work that you have to be at least open minded.  As to the rest, as with any company, YMMV.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/07/2014 11:08 PM
Coming from a start-up is not necessarily a good indicator that you're a good open minded engineer.  That's all.

And coming from an "OldSpace" company shows that you are a good open minded engineer?

I'm not saying that good open minded engineers don't exist at "OldSpace" companies, just that by virtue of how startups work that you have to be at least open minded.  As to the rest, as with any company, YMMV.

Sure, but your choices are not limited to "newspace" and "oldspace"...

If your tech leadership is in place, there are plenty places to get recruits from.  Also, young ones in oldSpace companies may not be broken yet.  They've seen a few useful things, and some may be frustrated at how these companies are led.

It takes time to ruin a soul...

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/08/2014 12:05 AM
Here is one blooming launch market for Firefly.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/07/07/report-nano-microsat-market-increase-150-percent-10-years/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/08/2014 08:32 AM
Here is one blooming launch market for Firefly.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/07/07/report-nano-microsat-market-increase-150-percent-10-years/

I've seen this many times in various tech industries.  A "market research" firm puts out a press release talking about the huge potential in some industry segment.  It's light on firm numbers, but all full of excitement.  Then, toward the end it invites the reader to contact the firm to buy the full report.

The reports are bought by those who are in that market segment or want to be in that market segment, and used in their pitches to investors.  "See?  Market research firm Blah, Blah, and Blah predicts 5,237% growth each of the next ten years in our market segment.  We plan to capture 50% market share, but even in the worst case that we only capture 5%, we'll have revenue of $87 billion in five years, growing to $8.2 trillion in ten years."

It's just the way the game is played.  In truth, this market research firm knows nothing of substance about the future of the nano satellite market that people who follow this forum closely don't already know.  Which is, basically, that it's growing, and there's a potential for it to get large, but nobody really knows how large or how quickly.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 07/08/2014 10:13 AM
In truth, this market research firm knows nothing of substance about the future of the nano satellite market that people who follow this forum closely don't already know.

Quite a lot of what people know in this forum has real commercial value if packaged correctly. It's the packaging that makes it a product.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/08/2014 10:51 AM
In truth, this market research firm knows nothing of substance about the future of the nano satellite market that people who follow this forum closely don't already know.

Quite a lot of what people know in this forum has real commercial value if packaged correctly. It's the packaging that makes it a product.

Yeah, you have a point there.

Still, from what I've seen in some other similar reports in different tech sectors, the reports are somewhat biased toward a rosy projection for the growth of the market, to make them attractive to those in that market.  They mention both pros and cons, but emphasize the pros more and use numeric projections to imply a degree of certainty that is greater than the actual data warrants.  I don't know if this report does the same, though.

I just wanted to sound a note of caution that the writers of these reports have a built-in incentive to tailor them both to sound more certain than the underlying data implies and to lean toward the more optimistic possibilities.  That's how they sell these reports.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/08/2014 09:18 PM
A few companies are working on propulsion systems for cubesats and nanosats. These will give the satellites wings allowing them to venture a lot further a field.
Also in development are ion drive nanosat carriers. These can deliver a flock of nanosats to BLEO.
I can see Universities being able to do low cost planetary missions with flock of nanosats.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/08/2014 10:55 PM
A few companies are working on propulsion systems for cubesats and nanosats. These will give the satellites wings allowing them to venture a lot further a field.
Also in development are ion drive nanosat carriers. These can deliver a flock of nanosats to BLEO.
I can see Universities being able to do low cost planetary missions with flock of nanosats.

Very exciting!  But large numbers of nanosats in need of rides to orbit doesn't necessarily mean a market for a launcher of small payloads.  If the number of nanosats is large, then it's worth putting lots of them on a bigger rocket and paying less per nanosat that way.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/09/2014 12:00 AM
For BLEO missions they are better off ride sharing to GTO. Does anybody have examples of ride share costs?.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 07/09/2014 06:35 AM
For BLEO missions they are better off ride sharing to GTO. Does anybody have examples of ride share costs?.
this has come up before. IIRC the sort of figures something like a secondary payload on Ariane 5 was about $100k and I think that was the sort of range the Russians charged for one of the re-purposed ICBM to launch a bunch of university payloads. I dimly recall a paper at one of the smallsat conferences in Colarado?

That cost would have been at least per secondary, not sure if it was per Kg (which would have been high).

JPL looked at this for a way to do a cheap, fast turnaround Mars (or other planetary) probe by dropping off at GTO.

AIUI they're looking to take over the market segment of the Falcon 1 (roughly).

On the upside some plug nozzles have finally flown and there is some flight data available. The "plug cluster" concept has been around since the 60's (how long before we have to start prefixing that with "19" ?) and obviously the question is how good is their core engine and (just as importantly) how good is their CFD modelling of the flows (which are complex).  :(

BTW All truncated aerospike nozzles I'm aware of have a "base bleed" of a few % of main flow (the exhaust of the gas generators seemed to be the common approach) as at SL the wake is "closed" and forms a low pressure bubble below atmospheric pressure, which AIUI would tend to "suck" the vehicle to the stand.

Now the $64m question. What will people pay for this and have they raised enough cash to do the development plan?

Keep in mind in the US people can already get such a payload on a Pegasus but the number of times its flown suggests the price is above what even the US market will bear (and outside the US people have a bunch of cheaper options putting it at the bottom of most of their lists anyway).

The cold lessons of the space launch business is that it is riddled with clever alternatives to the TSTO ELV.

So far none have got to flight status.  :(

Which suggests that the people who sign the checks (with one current exception) have not been convinced that clever is better.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 07/09/2014 01:26 PM
But this isn't a "clever alternative to the TSTO ELV"; it's just a clever version of a smallish TSTO ELV. The heavy version ("Beta") would have similar performance to F9R. And they say in the video that it is "designed with reusability in mind", presumably with first stage recover similar to F9R.

Overall, Firefly seems to be trying to out-SpaceX SpaceX (at least in the launcher business). More power to them.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/10/2014 06:30 AM
But this isn't a "clever alternative to the TSTO ELV"; it's just a clever version of a smallish TSTO ELV. The heavy version ("Beta") would have similar performance to F9R. And they say in the video that it is "designed with reusability in mind", presumably with first stage recover similar to F9R.

Overall, Firefly seems to be trying to out-SpaceX SpaceX (at least in the launcher business). More power to them.

The Firefly heavy will be around 1000kg (1mt) while F9R is +10,000kg (+10mt).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 07/10/2014 02:55 PM
Any rumors about a Bezo's investment in Firefly?    Has a lot of look and feel of a Bezo's startup...hmmm

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: wolfpack on 07/10/2014 04:09 PM
Coming from a start-up is not necessarily a good indicator that you're a good open minded engineer.  That's all.

And coming from an "OldSpace" company shows that you are a good open minded engineer?

I'm not saying that good open minded engineers don't exist at "OldSpace" companies, just that by virtue of how startups work that you have to be at least open minded.  As to the rest, as with any company, YMMV.

I've done start-ups. To survive at a startup you need to be a self-sufficient engineer. There is no-one to step in and solve a problem for you if you can't do it yourself. You need to be more of a "jack-of-all-trades" vs an expert in one particular thing.

A successful startup takes a simple idea and builds a business around it. It's the business building part that is hard.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jim on 07/10/2014 04:25 PM

Sure, but your choices are not limited to "newspace" and "oldspace"...

If your tech leadership is in place, there are plenty places to get recruits from.  Also, young ones in oldSpace companies may not be broken yet.  They've seen a few useful things, and some may be frustrated at how these companies are led.

It takes time to ruin a soul...


Who says anybody from oldspace is "broken" or "ruined"?   I have seen more "broken" or "ruined" people from nuspace.

Also, rather take somebody whose actual work made it into orbit (or at least flight)  than somebody who has flailed around working at multiple nuspace companies.

Edit/CR: Included last para from consecutive post
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/10/2014 08:10 PM
Question: Firefly uses an all-carbon fiber design. Based on the reasoning that the design makes the structural mass supremely light. However how does it compare to conventional aluminum-lithium alloys in mechanical performance?
 In particular, I was wondering about the cryogenic temperature ranges and fracture toughness and if this is adversely affected. And if a simple lightweight  insulation system is  need/required. Where as I recall the aluminum alloys actually tend to increase in strength as they get to this lower temperature state, and carbon fiber tends to become more brittle.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Coastal Ron on 07/10/2014 08:47 PM
Also, rather take somebody whose actual work made it into orbit (or at least flight)  than somebody who has flailed around working at multiple nuspace companies.

Might that be an "OldSpace" background talking...   ;)

I'm sure, for all the engineering students that may be reading this, that you're not implying that trying to do something different is bad for your career, so don't even attempt it?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/10/2014 09:22 PM
Follow up question: what do these 3 components represent on the truncated Aero spike center.
1. looks like a cylindrical center piece, function unknown?
2. looks like a heating transfer grid of come sort? - or is a flame arrest?
3. looks like an internal nozzle, again function unknown?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Burninate on 07/10/2014 11:44 PM
Could we be looking at some sort of air-augmented rocket (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air-augmented_rocket)?

Edit: Reading farther back in the thread... yes... yes we are:
This tweet suggests that it is a ramjet: https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/421130849845661696

Quote
Thanx for all the follows. We're thrilled to have you paying attention as our endeavor kicks off. #aerospike #ramjet #LEO #SSO
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/11/2014 12:35 AM
Could we be looking at some sort of air-augmented rocket (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air-augmented_rocket)?

Edit: Reading farther back in the thread... yes... yes we are:

This tweet suggests that it is a ramjet: https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/421130849845661696



You would think so.......

However look at the changes over 6 months between the two renderings where are inlets placed on latest picture from their web site?

Edit note: reply removed from inside quote marks
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/11/2014 01:27 AM

Sure, but your choices are not limited to "newspace" and "oldspace"...

If your tech leadership is in place, there are plenty places to get recruits from.  Also, young ones in oldSpace companies may not be broken yet.  They've seen a few useful things, and some may be frustrated at how these companies are led.

It takes time to ruin a soul...


Who says anybody from oldspace is "broken" or "ruined"?   I have seen more "broken" or "ruined" people from nuspace.

I've seen both, and if you read above, I was absolutely not advocating nuspace space cadets - I was saying that I didn't like FireFly hiring from BO, VG, and ex-SpaceX.

That said, I interviewed folks from a nearby old-space company a few years back, and they suffered from the same thing you see in other large companies.  Their ways were wrong, and they could not even see it.  They knew what they knew, to the letter, and had absolutely no desire to question why or how.  They were looking to be shown the next book of procedures and to learn how to follow them.   Not good either.

Hiring for a start-up is very difficult.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 07/11/2014 02:47 AM
Follow up question: what do these 3 components represent on the truncated Aero spike center.
1. looks like a cylindrical center piece, function unknown?
2. looks like a heating transfer grid of come sort? - or is a flame arrest?
3. looks like an internal nozzle, again function unknown?

One fairly difficult issue for all plugs/aerospikes to implement is TVC.  Feature 1 might be a center engine which is gimbaled, allowing the plug engines to be fixed.  Since the vehicle doesn't need a gas generator for turbopumps. it would serve the added function of base bleed to reduce drag and ensure the wake closes.  The Feature 2 "structure" might also be a flexible thermal boot.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/11/2014 03:05 AM
Could please help with the acronym, TVC I goggled it, and I know it doesn't mean 'Television Commercial' :o
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 07/11/2014 03:15 AM
Thrust vector control.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/11/2014 03:27 AM
Thanks QuantumG, - pretty obvious when you start to think about it.-

Have a look at this picture perhaps this is  'Thrust Vectoring Control' going on the outer X8 engine cores? Or is more related to improving efficiencies going on as it climbs through the atmosphere?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 07/11/2014 04:10 AM
Thanks QuantumG, - pretty obvious when you start to think about it.-

Have a look at this picture perhaps this is  'Thrust Vectoring Control' going on the outer X8 engine cores? Or is more related to improving efficiencies going on as it climbs through the atmosphere?

Some early plugs designs proposed individual chamber radial tilt (like the image) for TVC.  But to my knowledge no one has ever fired even a static test version of that approach.  It will be interesting to see how well it works and how it disrupts the exhaust attachment to the plug surface at both sea level and altitude conditions.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/11/2014 06:27 AM
Just found this video: Something for us visiting this thread to compare and contrast with
http://www.hybrids.com/video/aerospike.mpg

The test is static and sea level exhaust plume takes on that interesting coke cola bottle profile. 
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 07/11/2014 09:31 PM
Some early plugs designs proposed individual chamber radial tilt (like the image) for TVC.  But to my knowledge no one has ever fired even a static test version of that approach.  It will be interesting to see how well it works and how it disrupts the exhaust attachment to the plug surface at both sea level and altitude conditions.
So with the carbon fiber tankage and the plug nozzle engine this is yet another additional complication to a TSTO.  :(

OTOH relatively simple large composite structures have been around for some time.

A report in cryogenic materials described an LNG tank 6m in diameter at 900psi with an Aluminum reinforced glass fibre structure in 1982. The point is mfg techniques to do that have been around for 30 years.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/11/2014 10:02 PM
I see development of the aerospike engine being the most risky part of this design. I don't doubt they can do it but it may take a lot longer than expected.

If the aerospike engine meets performance expectations, it should be a gamechanger.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/11/2014 10:08 PM
I see development of the aerospike engine being the most risky part of this design. I don't doubt they can do it but it may take a lot longer than expected.

If the aerospike engine meets performance expectations, it should be a gamechanger.

How is the aerospike a game changer?  At best, it only gives moderately better overall performance.  People have known how to make aerospike engines for a long time but by and large there hasn't been much interest in them.  If it were going to be a game changer, every launch vehicle would already be using aerospikes.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: M_Puckett on 07/11/2014 10:37 PM
Aerospikes only make sense as a sustainer engine that fires from surface to near-orbit or a situation where you are size constrained on the nozzle.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/11/2014 11:10 PM
How is the Aerospike a game changer?" Maybe it’s not. And never will be.

Having said that it’s not uncommon for technology to take many years to filter through to main stream production

I take my Holden (G.M.) V6 3.8 L car from 1987 as an example and compare it back in the 60’s & 70's when Carburetors and breaker points where the standard configuration - Remember those years going out late at night and putting a .012" feeler gauge in between the points while balancing  a meat pie in the other hand! Or how painful cleaning the carburetor bowl out. and dropping a jet on the floor and replacing the gaskets.
I'm really glad they are behind us now and replaced with Electronic ignition and Fuel injection. My poor old girl has 297,000 km's (185,000 miles) on the clock yet see goes fine. In part due to these technologies being added.

 So yes, the march of time bring changes.

 I don't think saying "If it were going to be a game changer, every launch vehicle would already be using aerospikes"   is good reasoning.

How many times do we see developments that offers a 10% maybe 20% efficiency improvements and it takes (many) years, or decades for it to become common place?

-Myself, I like doing the compare /contrast thing.-

What are the relative merits of this technology?
Why does Tom Merkusic, do what he does, and for what reason?
What’s novel and different about this ‘firefly’ compared to other rocket design's?
What possible design flaws, and problems may they  encounter on the way? And the alike.

That’s the fun part of these threads. How do thing's work?
How do we contribute to the development of space flight?
Maybe one day we just happen to say something, or point out just the right thing.
That changes human history forever!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 07/12/2014 01:01 AM
Follow up question: what do these 3 components represent on the truncated Aero spike center.
1. looks like a cylindrical center piece, function unknown?
2. looks like a heating transfer grid of come sort? - or is a flame arrest?
3. looks like an internal nozzle, again function unknown?

In a truncated aerospike, there's a low pressure zone where the the spike is truncated. It makes the hot gases recirculate in that zone and makes the engine lose some thrust. That center piece looks like it's for some kind of gas to flow out of to create a slightly high pressure to prevent that gas re-circulation.


The only paper I've seen on thrust differential on an annular aerospike uses throttling of the nozzles, not gimbals.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Burninate on 07/12/2014 01:02 AM
An aerospike rocket engine efficiently modifies the expansion ratio of the exhaust to one appropriate for the air pressure.

This is not an aerospike rocket engine.

This is an air augmented rocket with ramjet/scramjet characteristics and a truncated aerospike which may or may not be a bypass nozzle, which has novel separated conventional bell nozzles for individual combustion chambers exterior to this assembly...

or something.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 07/12/2014 02:26 AM
An aerospike rocket engine efficiently modifies the expansion ratio of the exhaust to one appropriate for the air pressure.

This is not an aerospike rocket engine.

This is an air augmented rocket with ramjet/scramjet characteristics and a truncated aerospike which may or may not be a bypass nozzle, which has novel separated conventional bell nozzles for individual combustion chambers exterior to this assembly...

or something.

care to explain the differences, would be very educational? ;)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/12/2014 03:57 AM
Have a look at attachment:

1, I'm thinking its possibly part of the self pressurization system and a high pressure collector in the center to  return liquids in gas form back to the tanks.
2, It could be dual gas Lox and Methane fed piping.
3, Foresee see possible thermal cracking issues at weld junctions too sharp and not enough 'give' in them.

Note: Carbon fire is a wonder material for lightness. And we probably should have been doing more of this 'swap out and replace' years ago. Tanks in particular, due to the tremendous weight savings.
 Carbon fiber's  one downside is it tends to be brittle in failure mode.
And what I'm not too sure on the latest information on, is  predicating the  'Fatigue Life' cycle quality and how well that has been tested or modeled. I do know its a difficult subject.
Being more brittle in nature, fracture toughness could be challenging aspect meaning it will not tend to crumble up in a crash. But will fail by bursting or cracking open. Although I think the current design work around is simply increasing the mechanical safety strength margins to resolve the issue.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FuseUpHereAlone on 07/12/2014 04:51 AM
To me this aerospike looks woefully underexpanded (if that's the right term of course for aerospikes  :P).  I mean just eyeballing the differences between the FireFly concept and XRS-2200 linear aerospike, you can see that the FireFly engine expands most of the gases in the "bell" portion of the nozzle while the XRS-2200 expands it on the spike itself. 
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: go4mars on 07/12/2014 05:41 AM
I brought this up in a SpaceX thread when everyone thought the middle bell hung lower than the others on what was subsequently revealed as the V1.1

But shouldn't Bernoulli force from the ring of little engines make the perceived pressure for the middle vacuum equivalent?  Hence, vacuum equivalent ISP for the truncated aerospike in the middle...from the moment it leaves the launch pad?  With pressure of the plumes from the outer engines acting as the large nozzle for the broad expansion of the middle plume.  Outer engine throttle variance and/or tilt angle to change the shape of the main plume ("fingerless vectoring nozzle")?

Also, would the RAM be more accurately called a RAM TAN?  What's the presumed flow path of the rammed air?  To keep "dead zones" moving barely subsonic?

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 07/12/2014 07:16 AM
Follow up question: what do these 3 components represent on the truncated Aero spike center.
1. looks like a cylindrical center piece, function unknown?
2. looks like a heating transfer grid of come sort? - or is a flame arrest?
3. looks like an internal nozzle, again function unknown?

In a truncated aerospike, there's a low pressure zone where the the spike is truncated. It makes the hot gases recirculate in that zone and makes the engine lose some thrust. That center piece looks like it's for some kind of gas to flow out of to create a slightly high pressure to prevent that gas re-circulation.


The only paper I've seen on thrust differential on an annular aerospike uses throttling of the nozzles, not gimbals.
Interesting point. The two papers on plug nozzles that I know that were actually built were a GE pressure fed in the 50's and the one built by Rocketdyne in the 70's for the USAF AFRL under Dr Huang (that's the co-author of "Modern Engineering for the Design of Liquid Propellant Rocket Engines"

The former was a ground test engine where some of the chambers were 15% below nominal (IIRC the rest ran at normal pressure) to give a 5degree shift in the angle of the thrust.

The latter was the only known flight weight plug nozzle I've ever seen. It did use a gimbal mounting of the whole structure (the base plate was a key part of the design and was made of 2 layers of Ti plate machined into a waffle pattern perforated to evenly spread what I think was some of the expander exhaust. The whole engine hung from 4 upside down V shaped supports which in a vehicle would be the gimbals.

I'd quote a reference but I've just tried to used the ARC AIAA search function and it seems to have gone down the toilet (has AIAA sold it's collection to some private company?).  :(
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/12/2014 07:32 AM
I don't think saying "If it were going to be a game changer, every launch vehicle would already be using aerospikes"   is good reasoning.

How many times do we see developments that offers a 10% maybe 20% efficiency improvements and it takes (many) years, or decades for it to become common place?

I think you have a very different definition of the term "game changer" than I do.

To me, a game changer is something new that has such a huge impact that none of the players can continue doing what they were doing -- they must react or die, because the game has changed.

That's not to say that incremental improvements don't matter.  They do.  But they are part of the normal game.  They don't change the game.  Over time, there can be huge improvements in technology in a particular area without there ever having to be a game changer along the way.

What does the term "game changer" mean to you?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 07/12/2014 07:41 AM
An aerospike rocket engine efficiently modifies the expansion ratio of the exhaust to one appropriate for the air pressure.

This is not an aerospike rocket engine.

This is an air augmented rocket with ramjet/scramjet characteristics and a truncated aerospike which may or may not be a bypass nozzle, which has novel separated conventional bell nozzles for individual combustion chambers exterior to this assembly...

or something.

The current Firefly web site says "Featuring an aerospike engine" when describing their first launch vehicle.  This is the same page the pictures we're all analyzing come from.  That page does not mention the terms "ramjet" or "scramjet".

Older information, with a much different graphic, from Firefly did mention an air-breathing engine, but those mentions have been dropped.

So, I'd have to say you're wrong to say it's not an aerospike and wrong to say it's a ramjet or scramjet, based on the best currently-available information.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/12/2014 09:17 AM
I don't think saying "If it were going to be a game changer, every launch vehicle would already be using aerospikes"   is good reasoning.

How many times do we see developments that offers a 10% maybe 20% efficiency improvements and it takes (many) years, or decades for it to become common place?

I think you have a very different definition of the term "game changer" than I do.

To me, a game changer is something new that has such a huge impact that none of the players can continue doing what they were doing -- they must react or die, because the game has changed.

That's not to say that incremental improvements don't matter.  They do.  But they are part of the normal game.  They don't change the game.  Over time, there can be huge improvements in technology in a particular area without there ever having to be a game changer along the way.

What does the term "game changer" mean to you?

I think I understand where you are coming from, to me little to moderate things can also be game changes:
like:
* fuel injection on cars  [ already motioned ]
* Iphone
* window 8 [I hate it]
* 52" Flat screen TV and Dolby sound
*Trucks fitted out with aerodynamic devise to improve fuel efficiencies

Pretty much because they influence peoples lives and the way we live.
Possible game change's I have my eye on  for the future are:

* Graphene
* Al- Air batteries or Li-Si versions working in with solar power
* Windows 9
*3d printing ( we have one at work)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/12/2014 09:30 AM
FuseUpHereAlone & go4mars:

Thanks for adding graphics "a picture says a thousand words"

-And thanks to Wikipedia,    - lets do the compare thing-

Yes in my view, there is 'low pressure' at the base of the truncated cone
See attached image
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: LeighM on 07/12/2014 04:03 PM
Just a general comment about aerospike engines.

I always thought that the advantage was not necessarily about the efficiency of the engine per se, but the weight savings that it would give because of:-
a) the ability, at least with an annular design, to vector the thrust, dispensing with heavy gimballing structures and
b) the much simpler path for transmitting the thrust from the engine to the payload i.e. not having to go from effectively a point source on a traditional bell-nozzle engine to the cylindrical structure of the rocket. With an annular engine the thrust goes straight from the engine to the structure.

Regardless, all very interesting - I wish them well and look forward to seeing how it all pans out.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 07/12/2014 05:21 PM
I think aerospikes are over-rated but I do like the idea of air-augmentation. Not that I think it's a slam-dunk approach by any measure, but it does indeed increase the effective specific impulse by a lot, and it's something that no one has really explored this area of the trade space with an actual launch vehicle... That is, assuming it gets to flight.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 07/12/2014 05:55 PM
I thought there was an aerospike or plug nozzle Q&A but in case there isn't.

The #1 benefit of such nozzles is reduction of losses. Bells nozzle deliver perfect expansion IE exhaust pressure has dropped to exactly the ambient atmospheric pressure at exactly 1 altitude.

Looking up the text book nozzle losses that loss is the worst major loss at about 15% (although I can't recall if that's Isp or thrust).

If you look at graphs comparing plugs with bells you see a huge skirt of lost performance where the bell is much below the plug but (slightly) exceeds the plug at it's design altitude.

BTW people have spec'd plugs for upper stages as well because they are so much shorter than the 100:1 + expansion ratio nozzles, so you don't need a long interstage (which adds surprisingly large mass).

Eliminating gimbals is a potential benefit but as I said the only flight weight plug nozzle I'm aware of was gimballed for TVC.

Sadly due to the wrong brazing alloy used to join parts of the combustion chambers a sizeable part of it was destroyed in ground test. The rest is presumably sitting in a warehouse at the AFRL. Still the best example of a dual LO2/LH2 expander cycle tested to date AFAIK. :(
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 07/12/2014 06:26 PM
In the simple 1-D rocket-engine model, the difference between vacuum and sea-level thrust is simply exit area times sea-level atmospheric pressure.  If thrust density (newtons per square meter of exit) of a conventional nozzle is high (basically, if chamber pressure is high), then the pressure losses are relatively small.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 07/12/2014 08:16 PM
Follow up question: what do these 3 components represent on the truncated Aero spike center.
1. looks like a cylindrical center piece, function unknown?
2. looks like a heating transfer grid of come sort? - or is a flame arrest?
3. looks like an internal nozzle, again function unknown?

In a truncated aerospike, there's a low pressure zone where the the spike is truncated. It makes the hot gases recirculate in that zone and makes the engine lose some thrust. That center piece looks like it's for some kind of gas to flow out of to create a slightly high pressure to prevent that gas re-circulation.


The only paper I've seen on thrust differential on an annular aerospike uses throttling of the nozzles, not gimbals.
Interesting point. The two papers on plug nozzles that I know that were actually built were a GE pressure fed in the 50's and the one built by Rocketdyne in the 70's for the USAF AFRL under Dr Huang (that's the co-author of "Modern Engineering for the Design of Liquid Propellant Rocket Engines"

The former was a ground test engine where some of the chambers were 15% below nominal (IIRC the rest ran at normal pressure) to give a 5degree shift in the angle of the thrust.

The latter was the only known flight weight plug nozzle I've ever seen. It did use a gimbal mounting of the whole structure (the base plate was a key part of the design and was made of 2 layers of Ti plate machined into a waffle pattern perforated to evenly spread what I think was some of the expander exhaust. The whole engine hung from 4 upside down V shaped supports which in a vehicle would be the gimbals.

I'd quote a reference but I've just tried to used the ARC AIAA search function and it seems to have gone down the toilet (has AIAA sold it's collection to some private company?).  :(

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20050217125.pdf

That's the paper that I was referring to. It's from 2003.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/12/2014 10:39 PM
From the drawings earlier in this thread steering seems to be by having one privot point per engine/ nozzle and moving it in or out. Simple design by rocket standards and should be lot cheaper to manufacture than gimbal mount.

If aerospike development proves impossible they can still do a mini F9 using 2nd stage engine.

Could this engine be scaled by increase diameter and adding more engines/nozzles eg 16?.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: edkyle99 on 07/12/2014 11:10 PM
In my view, the most important parts of this design are the use of all-composite tanks and structure and of LOX/methane propellants.  Firefly has a chance to be the first to orbit using such a setup.  The aerospike is interesting, but its effect is offset by the use of a pressure fed propulsion system.  These latter two elements of the design seem to me selected to keep costs low for what is likely only a precursor test variant. 

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 07/13/2014 11:16 AM
I think the aerospike and pressure-feed sort of go together.  Pressure feed forces one to relatively low-pressure engines.  Low-pressure engines, in turn, benefit much more from aerospike nozzles than do high-pressure engines.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 07/13/2014 02:27 PM
I may be even simpler than that. They are cribbing SpaceX's concept of the first stage being a cluster of second stage engines, and if you have that many small first stage engines, arranging them around a plug is an efficient packing. So it's not so much that they set out to design an aerospike first stage, they just already had a ring of engines on the first stage, and stuck an aerospike on there.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Tomness on 07/14/2014 11:11 PM
Do they really have research and development operations in Hawthorne, CA just down the road from SpaceX rocket factory? Crazy, I wouldn't be surprised if SpaceX sold them their Falcon 1 Tooling.

I hope they are able to provide a viable product.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dasmoth on 07/15/2014 10:03 AM
Do they really have research and development operations in Hawthorne, CA just down the road from SpaceX rocket factory? Crazy, I wouldn't be surprised if SpaceX sold them their Falcon 1 Tooling.

Falcon 1 tooling is unlikely to be helpful when building a composite vehicle.

I do wonder if FRE-1 might be just a little bit Kestrel-inspired, though...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/15/2014 12:22 PM
Firefly-B photos. note the x4 nozzles on outer boosters
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/15/2014 12:23 PM
And this one,
How to Interpret what's going on?
Looks like a Falcon heavy doesn't it, painted in black and fluoro green logo.
Bruce Wayne Enterprises perhaps,
but where's Batman?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Crispy on 07/15/2014 01:03 PM
Is there a sensible reason for the slightly mismatched booster diameters?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 07/15/2014 03:09 PM
In my view, the most important parts of this design are the use of all-composite tanks and structure and of LOX/methane propellants.  Firefly has a chance to be the first to orbit using such a setup.  The aerospike is interesting, but its effect is offset by the use of a pressure fed propulsion system.  These latter two elements of the design seem to me selected to keep costs low for what is likely only a precursor test variant. 

 - Ed Kyle

you forgot using methane to provide the pressure.   8)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 07/15/2014 03:19 PM

Sadly due to the wrong brazing alloy used to join parts of the combustion chambers a sizeable part of it was destroyed in ground test. The rest is presumably sitting in a warehouse at the AFRL. Still the best example of a dual LO2/LH2 expander cycle tested to date AFAIK. :(

maybe someone will pull this out of storage, and 3D print (shameless plug) a new test part.   Lot's of test programs can be revisited now at a much lower cost.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Zed_Noir on 07/15/2014 06:27 PM
And this one,
How to Interpret what's going on?
Looks like a Falcon heavy doesn't it, painted in black and fluoro green logo.
Bruce Wayne Enterprises perhaps,
but where's Batman?

The rocket logo more likely related to the Firefly TV series. The rocket is shiny.  8)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/15/2014 09:23 PM

The rocket logo more likely related to the Firefly TV series. The rocket is shiny.  8)

Quite apt>.....

Find a Crew.
Find a Job.
Keep Flying.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 07/15/2014 10:32 PM
Firefly-B photos. note the x4 nozzles on outer boosters

Reminiscent of the old Falcon 9-S5 (https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 07/16/2014 05:16 AM
Well FWIW, when the number of peripheral nozzles decreases, so does the size of the plug.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: zaitcev on 07/16/2014 05:25 PM
Firefly-B photos. note the x4 nozzles on outer boosters

I can virtually guarantee you that the links between stages aren't going to stick to tank bodies like pictured. In fact, they are likely to come to extend or shrink the boosters a bit so that upper links connect to interstage or intertank (Chinese plan such stubby liquid boosters, for example). Alternatively, they can create a kind of a craddle like on H-IIA. But it's not going to look like pictured.

I'll say even more. In traditional metal rockets that fly enough to pay for themselves, it would make even more sense to put 4 engines on the center and 8 engines on boosters, and use equal diameters. Something a kindergartener would know to do. However, Firefly's production of composite tanks may be revolutionary enough, and flight rate may be low enough, for them to get away with something resembling the computer graphic that they posted. Or maybe they just asked an intern to draw without regard to reality.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 07/16/2014 08:57 PM

 Firefly's production of composite tanks may be revolutionary enough,

I agree, and was thinking that these tanks might need something more exotic than the 'normal' garden variety carbon-fiber build up. (Fire resistance to Lox for instance)

You know having some more detail release from Firefly would be nice.
 We will be happy to do the rest of the discussion...!
 
Compare Here:   http://xcor.com/composites/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: simonbp on 07/20/2014 09:30 PM
Firefly-B photos. note the x4 nozzles on outer boosters

I can virtually guarantee you that the links between stages aren't going to stick to tank bodies like pictured. In fact, they are likely to come to extend or shrink the boosters a bit so that upper links connect to interstage or intertank (Chinese plan such stubby liquid boosters, for example). Alternatively, they can create a kind of a craddle like on H-IIA. But it's not going to look like pictured.

I'll say even more. In traditional metal rockets that fly enough to pay for themselves, it would make even more sense to put 4 engines on the center and 8 engines on boosters, and use equal diameters. Something a kindergartener would know to do. However, Firefly's production of composite tanks may be revolutionary enough, and flight rate may be low enough, for them to get away with something resembling the computer graphic that they posted. Or maybe they just asked an intern to draw without regard to reality.

You might be right, but I would be careful applying too much metal-tank intuition to composite tanks. Some structures which are really strong as metal are weak as composites, and vice versa.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Llian Rhydderch on 07/25/2014 05:03 AM
Also, rather take somebody whose actual work made it into orbit (or at least flight)  than somebody who has flailed around working at multiple nuspace companies.

You should take your entrepreneurial ideas, and your hiring preferences, and start a company.  I hear there are a lot of folks with resumes out.

Take the risk.   :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 08/17/2014 04:25 AM
 Another article on Firefly, the following quote from this article was of interest.

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-rise-of-boutique-rocket-firms-inspired-by-spacex?trk_source=homepage-lede

The Firefly family of rockets will also use aerospikes instead of bell nozzles, and the company eventually plans to substitute kerosene for methane gas. “That really hasn’t been done in the world of rockets that lift payloads,” Blum told me.

Sounds like the first engines will be RP1 which makes sense from a business point of view. Developing Methane engines could delay LV by months if not years. Sooner the Firefly launches the sooner it is making money.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 08/18/2014 03:48 AM
I've got to say there are some problems with that article.  It suggests that Firefly's use of the same engines in the first and second stages is unique, when, in fact, Falcon 9 does the same thing.  The phrase "substitute kerosene for methane gas" indicates that Firefly will initially burn gaseous methane but will later switch to kerosene.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 08/18/2014 04:05 AM
The phrase "substitute kerosene for methane gas" indicates that Firefly will initially burn gaseous methane but will later switch to kerosene.

Yeah, I read it that way too at first, but it's clear from the context it means the opposite.  And I do remember occasionally hearing people say "substitute X for Y" to mean Y is replacing X.  It's the less-common ordering by far, but it's not unheard of.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 08/25/2014 01:36 PM
Here is a good interview helps answer some of those basic questions:
aero spike engines, composite tanks, Alpha and Beta weight ranges

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbntJeYQvqg

Watch it from13:10 onwards.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 08/26/2014 09:43 PM
And this article from today:

Interestingly talks about pintle injectors use.
 and "heat exchanger for autogenous pressurization."
 so we finally figure out/confirm what function that grating in lower aero spike plug is doing....

http://aviationweek.com/space/spacex-alum-goes-after-falcon-1-market-firefly
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 08/27/2014 09:23 PM
Can't wait, (Ok I don't of course have a CHOICE actually :) ) for some testing on the engine.

Any ideas how tall the vehicle is? Looks, and due to the methane I'd kind of assume it's going to be taller than the Falcon-1 as its diameter is the same. (6ft)

I wonder if they can make it robust enough for possible air-launch :)

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 08/27/2014 10:32 PM
They have a lot of work ahead of them.
1) develop a new engine based on radical design.
2) develop autogenous pressurization system.
3) composite fuselage and tanks.
4) avionics
5) launch faculties
6) test faculties.
7) production faculties.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 08/27/2014 10:36 PM
I'm not sure how "all pressure fed" translates into cost savings. Yeah, pumps are expensive to develop, but they're not the cost driver they used to be.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 08/28/2014 02:14 AM
And this article from today:

Interestingly talks about pintle injectors use.
 and "heat exchanger for autogenous pressurization."
 so we finally figure out/confirm what function that grating in lower aero spike plug is doing....

http://aviationweek.com/space/spacex-alum-goes-after-falcon-1-market-firefly

How, then, is the upper stage, which lacks a plug, pressurized?  Or does it run at much lower pressure?

EDIT:  It occurs to me that my question is a bit silly.  To extract heat for pressurization of the upper stage's propellants, one could just regeneratively cool some portion of the nozzle extension.  That would be essentially the same thing as the grating on the plug, just inside out.  And a plug nozzle is, after all, pretty much an inside-out de Laval nozzle.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 08/28/2014 09:27 AM
And this article from today:

Interestingly talks about pintle injectors use.
 and "heat exchanger for autogenous pressurization."
 so we finally figure out/confirm what function that grating in lower aero spike plug is doing....

http://aviationweek.com/space/spacex-alum-goes-after-falcon-1-market-firefly

How, then, is the upper stage, which lacks a plug, pressurized?  Or does it run at much lower pressure?
Good question?

Too get people thinking some more ....  [*** warning speculation ***]
Might it look something like the two outer boosters on Firefly-b configuration?

Notice in the attached image with 4 nozzles these appear to be 5' diameter and center 6' diameter.
copied from firefly website

Some related questions though,

1. Is it possible to the heat propellants with pipework  for the pressure feed just within the plug former itself?
2. If not.... is the pressure from cross-fed from the center core?
3. It seem doubtful that second stage would have a 'plug' as this would increase total height, maybe a very short version  as height same as nozzles?
4, Is it 'preesure-fed' or 'pressure-fed   see firefly-b specs?  :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 08/28/2014 05:46 PM
They have a lot of work ahead of them.

Granted, however the work might not be so difficult as its made out to be...

Quote
1) develop a new engine based on radical design.
They are actually developing a simpler and more well known version of the "plug-nozzle" called a mutli-chamber-plug-nozzle engine which has undergone decades of extensive non-flight testing.

Quote
2) develop autogenous pressurization system.
The same is true with the "self-pressurizing" rocket systems of which VPAC is one flown example and has a history of extensive ground testing.

Quote
3) composite fuselage and tanks.
Probably the simplist work as the techniques, manufacturing, and use of composites for all these purposes is already pretty standard even for rockets.

Quote
4) avionics
Space/launch qualified equipment might be a price driver here but its not like its not avaiable commercially

Quote
5) launch faculties
Depending on the "parting-terms" they could be looking at using the F1 facilities at Vandenburg or Kwaj... It might be something will be available at the Cape or Canaveral?

Quote
6) test faculties.
Those are probably avaible more now than in previous decades...

Quote
7) production faculties.
There's a lot of places that are and have been looking to attract such business... I kind of wish they would come to Utah :)

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FuseUpHereAlone on 08/28/2014 05:55 PM
Firefly-B photos. note the x4 nozzles on outer boosters

Interesting to see that the boosters only have 4 nozzles.  I would think they'd have more in order to generate more thrust than the core at lift-off and burn-out sooner.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 08/28/2014 07:04 PM
I'm not sure how "all pressure fed" translates into cost savings. Yeah, pumps are expensive to develop, but they're not the cost driver they used to be.

The idea that pressure fed is lower cost due to avoiding turbo-pumps is one that came from all the "Big Dumb Booster" studies and other "Lowest Cost" launch studies. I've never really thought the actual argument was all that supportable. Especially given the the most under-rated, robust and reusable rocket engine ever made was driven by a mechanical turbopump designed in the 1950s :)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-1_(rocket_engine)
http://ota.fas.org/reports/8904.pdf

Moreso though because both turbopump costs and alternatives (such as the piston pump) have come along over the years.

Though I suspect a lot of it is having to "outsource" parts as little as possible. Given the size of the multiple rockets on the vehicle normal "turbo-pumps" would proably be heavier and much more complex and expensive than going with self-pressurization though I'd have thought it would have been ready-made for piston-pumps that too might be more expensive due to having to out-source them.

How, then, is the upper stage, which lacks a plug, pressurized?  Or does it run at much lower pressure?
Good question?

Where does this idea come from? Both stages use the "Lumen" engines the first stage is listed as the FRE-2 while the upper uses the FRE-1 (http://www.fireflyspace.com/vehicles/firefly-a) and nothing I've seen/heard/found would lead me to assume they are not both plug-nozzles with the associated self-pressurization system...

Quote
Too get people thinking some more ....  [*** warning speculation ***]
Might it look something like the two outer boosters on Firefly-b configuration?

Notice in the attached image with 4 nozzles these appear to be 5' diameter and center 6' diameter.
copied from firefly website

You call THAT speculation? Hmmmph, amateur... :)

Seriously I'm already wondering about air-launch, alternate propellants and manned launches :)
(It was pointed out at one point and time that the Falcon-1 "could" put up a two or one person capsule about the size of the SS1...)

I suspect that's right though on the engine configuration because a 4-chamber plug nozzle would have less thrust than the "booster"  which seems to show 8-chambers. I think it was just using the upper stage aerospike illustration in place of the actual booster stages. (Unless the boosters cross-feed to the core and the engines only have to "lift" their own mass?)
Quote
Some related questions though,

1. Is it possible to the heat propellants with pipework  for the pressure feed just within the plug former itself?
I'd think we'd established the "grid" in the middle of the plug is the Heat-Exchanger system? Bonus question: If so and since they are looking at future reusable recovery could propellant be retained to run through the HX during reentry and then dumped over board from the nozzles? This has been seen as proposed for a large number of plug-nozzle engine/heat-sheild concepts.
Quote
2. If not.... is the pressure from cross-fed from the center core?
That's not possible I think from the way self-pressurization works:
http://www.holderaerospace.com/downloads/Technical_Papers/VaPak%20Systems%20Overview.pdf
http://enu.kz/repository/2009/AIAA-2009-5221.pdf
http://aa.stanford.edu/students/media/posters2014/zimmerman.pdf
http://pdf.aiaa.org/preview/CDReadyMJPC2005_1177/PV2005_3549.pdf
Quote
3. It seem doubtful that second stage would have a 'plug' as this would increase total height, maybe a very short version  as height same as nozzles?
No actually the "plug" would be shorter than a regular nozzle so its being used and for the same reason as they lower one. IE: a "normal" bell nozzle would have to be huge to compinsate for the lack of pressure, meanwhile the same plug nozzle works here as well as for the booster.
Quote
4, Is it 'preesure-fed' or 'pressure-fed   see firefly-b specs?  :)
Depends on how many beers its had before it takes off I suppose :)

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 08/28/2014 11:59 PM
Opps, I see where I missed the second stage of the Firefly having a "conventional" bell nozzle. Funny that I'd think they'd use aerospikes all around due to the bell size for orbital flight.

Multiple engines exhausting into a single bell maybe? Or a whole new engine?

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 08/29/2014 03:26 AM
For 2nd stage they use a bell nozzle optimized for vacuum. No need for aerospike as atmospheric pressure is constant ie vacuum.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 08/29/2014 04:59 AM
Opps, I see where I missed the second stage of the Firefly having a "conventional" bell nozzle. Funny that I'd think they'd use aerospikes all around due to the bell size for orbital flight.

Multiple engines exhausting into a single bell maybe? Or a whole new engine?

Randy

The second stage has just one engine, so I don't think bell size is going to be much of a problem.  And vacuum-optimized bell is probably more efficient than an aerospike for vacuum-only flight.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 09/02/2014 05:31 PM
For 2nd stage they use a bell nozzle optimized for vacuum. No need for aerospike as atmospheric pressure is constant ie vacuum.
The second stage has just one engine, so I don't think bell size is going to be much of a problem.  And vacuum-optimized bell is probably more efficient than an aerospike for vacuum-only flight.

All true, however I'll point out that it "helps" a lot down the line if you're looking for reusability in that you don't have to rotate the rocket for reentry and the multiple engines gives a wider "throttle" range....

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 09/03/2014 01:42 PM
1. Is it possible to the heat propellants with pipework  for the pressure feed just within the plug former itself?
Yes. The standard (Sutton) comment is the plus is "more difficult to cool." And that's it.  :(
Quote
3. It seem doubtful that second stage would have a 'plug' as this would increase total height, maybe a very short version  as height same as nozzles?
Wrong again. Historically plub nozzles have  been proposed for 2nd stages and especially for "space tug" missions for prolonged in space multiple ignition  missions. It was proposed because for example a 500:1 expansion ratio nozzle on a bell is much longer than an equivalent plug (as is the interstage to house it.).
Quote
4, Is it 'preesure-fed' or 'pressure-fed   see firefly-b specs?  :)
I feel a more important question is wheather it will be available in "Periwinkle Blue."  :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 09/04/2014 04:20 PM
I'm not sure how "all pressure fed" translates into cost savings. Yeah, pumps are expensive to develop, but they're not the cost driver they used to be.

I wonder whether advances in composites make the difference.  Firefly claims it can make a first-stage tank in two days.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 09/12/2014 05:39 AM
I will interrupt this debate about ideal paint jobs for rocket engines with actual news about Firefly Systems:

Report: Rocket company eyes Austin area for headquarters, test facility

http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/blog/techflash/2014/09/report-rocket-company-eyes-austin-area-for.html

Firefly Space Systems, a California-based satellite launch company working on more efficient rockets, has made a big land buy in Burnet County and plans to relocate its headquarters to Central Texas, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

According to the report, the company recently bought 200 rural acres near Briggs in Burnet County where it plans to test its new rockets and is looking at Austin’s northern suburbs – Cedar Park in particular – for office space for its new headquarters, which could eventually house more than 200 employees.

In August, the company announced a collaboration with the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas to help design its new launch system. Firefly CEO Thomas Markusic, in announcements posted on the company website, said their designs could potentially cut the cost of small satellite launches by millions of dollars.

In July, the company announced that its still-developing Firefly Alpha launch vehicle could launch a 400 kilogram object into low earth orbit for as little as $8 million.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 09/12/2014 06:14 AM
And an update from Firefly's news website part
Nozzles have gone from an 8 up to 10 up configuration:
-nothing about new paint schemes though :(-

To quote from the article a few paragraphs: "In Firefly’s planned “Lumen” engine, which uses what is known as a plug aerospike configuration, a ring of 10 combustion chambers surrounds a truncated spike (see inset illustration).  As the plumes from the combustors expand with the dropping ambient air pressure as the vehicle ascends, the interior parts of them push against the so-called plug to generate additional thrust.

“We come off the pad with, effectively, a 30:1 area ratio nozzle, which dramatically increases our performance,” Markusic says. “That’s the theory. In practice it doesn’t quite work that way. The aerospike actually goes through kind of a closed-wake and an open-wake regime, and you really don’t start seeing the benefits until the pressure starts going down a little bit in practice. But if you integrate over the whole boost trajectory you definitely see an enhancement.”"

http://aviationweek.com/space/spacex-alum-goes-after-falcon-1-market-firefly
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 09/12/2014 03:06 PM
I should interject a note of reality here:

There is a list of technologies that are invoked when programs are in trouble, or if they are a long shot. Off the top of my head, there are a couple that come to mind, perhaps others can list more:

Slush hydrogen
Aerospike engines
added: Hydrogen peroxide oxidizer

History tells us if companies or agencies invoke these, it is time to run.



Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Helodriver on 09/12/2014 07:13 PM
Firefly is flying from California, SpaceX loses a neighbor. 

http://www.dailybreeze.com/business/20140911/hawthorne-based-rocket-company-to-move-to-texas (http://www.dailybreeze.com/business/20140911/hawthorne-based-rocket-company-to-move-to-texas)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: edkyle99 on 09/12/2014 07:56 PM
Aerospike engines

History tells us if companies or agencies invoke these, it is time to run.
What about Rocketdyne?  It extensively and successfully tested J-2 class annular aerospike engines during the late 1960s and very much wanted to propose one for SSME, but was bullied by Mueller into developing and proposing a high pressure engine instead.  Rocketdyne won the competition, but many of its engineers remained convinced that an annular aerospike would have been a better, (and yes, cheaper and faster) solution.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Steven Pietrobon on 09/13/2014 07:58 AM
I should interject a note of reality here:

There is a list of technologies that are invoked when programs are in trouble, or if they are a long shot. Off the top of my head, there are a couple that come to mind, perhaps others can list more:

Slush hydrogen
Aerospike engines
added: Hydrogen peroxide oxidizer

History tells us if companies or agencies invoke these, it is time to run.

Why are you putting the mocker on hydrogen peroxide or HTP? It was successfully used on the Black Knight and Black Arrow programs. None of the failures of these vehicles were related to using HTP. I'm pretty sure any other vehicle that used HTP that has failed to be developed (for example the Beal Aerospace BA-1 and BA-2) was not due to using HTP. They failed either for political or other economic reasons (and certainly not due to the cost of HTP). The same can be said for Aerospike engines and slush hydrogen. There are also plenty of other vehicles that have used traditional technologies that have also failed to get off the ground or failed to continue after a handful of flights. Examples include N-1, Energia, Falcon 1, Titan III, Delta III, Athena I, Athena II, Conestoga, Taurus and Taurus XL.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: RanulfC on 09/15/2014 08:27 PM
I should interject a note of reality here:

There is a list of technologies that are invoked when programs are in trouble, or if they are a long shot. Off the top of my head, there are a couple that come to mind, perhaps others can list more:

Slush hydrogen
Aerospike engines
added: Hydrogen peroxide oxidizer

History tells us if companies or agencies invoke these, it is time to run.

Why are you putting the mocker on hydrogen peroxide or HTP?

'Cause he don't like those "technologies" don't ya know :)

Seriously the ONLY one of the three that hasn't been "proven" is the slush-hydrogen and in fact we KNOW we can make and use it... Just not very well or operationally :)

HTP is in fact a pretty damn good oxidizer, (and not just because it's my favorite for vehicle dimension reduction reasons :) ) and has a long history of being under-rated :)

Randy
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 09/15/2014 09:11 PM
Moon express are using HTP plus RP1 for their lander. I think PRs Arkyd 300 uses same fuels. For low power thrusters HTP is used on its own. If HTP was going to provide technical difficulties I doubt they would have used it.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Vultur on 09/28/2014 08:55 AM
Apparently Firefly got a grant from Cedar Park, Texas after relocating there.

Parabolic Arc article...

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/09/26/firefly-space-systems-awarded-12-million-economic-development-grant/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: breadfan on 10/14/2014 01:38 AM
Great profile of Markusic on spacenews: http://spacenews.com/article/features/42177profile-thomas-markusic-founder-and-chief-executive-firefly-space-systems

goes into his personal motivations, and some new information about their game plan and future aspirations. I'm sure some of the more knowledgeable folk here can glean more out of this than I can.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 10/14/2014 06:32 AM
Great profile of Markusic on spacenews: http://spacenews.com/article/features/42177profile-thomas-markusic-founder-and-chief-executive-firefly-space-systems

goes into his personal motivations, and some new information about their game plan and future aspirations. I'm sure some of the more knowledgeable folk here can glean more out of this than I can.

I found this interesting:

Quote
Alpha is just the simplest rocket we can build the soonest to establish that we can go to space. Next will be Beta, which we want to service the whole small-satellite range, up to a metric ton. Beta would use the same technologies as Alpha, except it’s parallel-staged. Beta looks like a Falcon Heavy Jr. or a Delta Heavy Jr., with three cores from Alpha. Next is Gamma, which is basically a Beta vehicle with side boosters that can be recovered. How they’re recovered I’m not sure yet. The boosters could be recovered with wings — a glide-back — or parachutes. Ultimately where we’d like to go is to have a reusable flyback stage, and that is our Delta vehicle, which looks more like a rocketplane — a rocketplane augmented with airbreathing propulsion that can do these sub-million-dollar smallsat launches. Delta might also be a platform to do point-to-point passenger travel. But that’s an aspirational thing right now; it’s something we don’t work on at all.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 10/14/2014 07:36 AM
All good up to Gamma but the manned p2p dreams seems to go off on a tangent.

I like his reasoning for leaving "big newspace" for own startup, especially this:

Quote from: Thomas Markusic
In particular, I thought that the small-satelllite market was being underserved and not properly addressed, and I feel strongly that it is an area that would help with the movement.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Crispy on 11/30/2014 06:33 PM
More coverage from Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/11/firefly-space-systems-charges-full-speed-toward-low-earth-orbit/1/

Author (self admittedly) doesn't know much about space, so it's full of inaccuracies and misunderstandings. Still an interesting read :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 11/30/2014 07:30 PM
Great find Crispy.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: lee_ars on 11/30/2014 07:39 PM
More coverage from Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/11/firefly-space-systems-charges-full-speed-toward-low-earth-orbit/1/

Author (self admittedly) doesn't know much about space, so it's full of inaccuracies and misunderstandings. Still an interesting read :)
I said in the piece that I'm no rocket scientist, not that I don't know much about space! I've written a ton of content about NASA, including touring historical MOCR2 with Sy Liebergot (http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/10/going-boldly-what-it-was-like-to-be-an-apollo-flight-controller/), a lengthy piece on how the NBL works (http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/03/swimming-with-spacemen/), spending time at MSFC with the propulsion engineers firing the rebuilt F1 gas generator (http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/04/how-nasa-brought-the-monstrous-f-1-moon-rocket-back-to-life/), visiting the ISS FCR and talking with flight controllers about how ISS debris avoidance works (http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/07/how-nasa-steers-the-international-space-station-around-space-junk/), a deep-dive into the CAIB Appendix D.13 Atlantis/Columbia rescue plan (http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/02/the-audacious-rescue-plan-that-might-have-saved-space-shuttle-columbia/), and a number of other pieces. I'm not an engineer, but after growing up within a few miles of JSC and spending ten years in the industry before coming to work at Ars, I like to think I can hold my own.

Everything in the Firefly piece is as accurate as I can make it, and I had multiple follow-up conversations with the Firefly folks to make sure the piece was factual (especially the layman's explanation of how an aerospike engine works). If there are any inaccuracies and misunderstandings, I'm extremely interested in hearing about them so that I can fix them!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 11/30/2014 07:44 PM
I like it that you actually get to see some insides from their offices, the people and overviews of the test area :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Crispy on 12/01/2014 01:08 PM
Everything in the Firefly piece is as accurate as I can make it, and I had multiple follow-up conversations with the Firefly folks to make sure the piece was factual (especially the layman's explanation of how an aerospike engine works). If there are any inaccuracies and misunderstandings, I'm extremely interested in hearing about them so that I can fix them!

You know what, I just copy and pasted the article into a new window and started going through to do exactly that. And I found that there were hardly any errors I could spot. I thought you'd misunderstood Specific Impulse, but you got it. I apologise for overstating the case. It's an excellent article :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: lee_ars on 12/01/2014 01:20 PM
Thanks, Crispy :) I try as hard as I can to get stuff like this right and also keep it accessible!

FWIW, my Isp explanation comes from this story on the proposed F-1B (http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/04/new-f-1b-rocket-engine-upgrades-apollo-era-deisgn-with-1-8m-lbs-of-thrust/). When I was at MSFC researching the piece, I asked R.H. Coates (lead propulsion engineer for the SLS Advanced Development Office) to write me up a quick primer on Isp that would make sense to someone who isn't an engineer, and he came through marvelously. I included it pretty much verbatim in that piece, and I've referred to it whenever I've have to write about Isp in subsequent pieces :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 12/01/2014 02:07 PM
Do you have more images of your visit with Firefly btw that can be published? :)

Also, (more general question) is there more known about where they will launch from? The article states they intend to launch within two years, but shouldn't that mean there has to be some construction work going on somewhere? :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: lee_ars on 12/01/2014 02:40 PM
Do you have more images of your visit with Firefly btw that can be published? :)

Also, (more general question) is there more known about where they will launch from? The article states they intend to launch within two years, but shouldn't that mean there has to be some construction work going on somewhere? :)
I took about 200 pix—pretty normal for a story like this—but the ones that came out the best are the ones I ran. All the rest are variations on the ones in the article.

The company hasn't settled on any single launch site yet. As of September, they were considering a bunch of different places (https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/515545041998479360).

(edit - grammar, derp)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 12/01/2014 07:35 PM
More coverage from Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/11/firefly-space-systems-charges-full-speed-toward-low-earth-orbit/1/



Everything in the Firefly piece is as accurate as I can make it, and I had multiple follow-up conversations with the Firefly folks to make sure the piece was factual (especially the layman's explanation of how an aerospike engine works). If there are any inaccuracies and misunderstandings, I'm extremely interested in hearing about them so that I can fix them!

This a great enjoyable article.   well done.

I'm curious on the topic of autogenously pressurized mentioned in the articles. Not to much in the way of specifics seems to be hinted at.

- Was any 'Tankage pressure' ratings discussed ?
- And how does that compare with the pressures used in the 'Tankage' of conventional turbopump assemblies?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: breadfan on 12/01/2014 07:50 PM
I'm curious why Thomas Markusic and the other SpaceX expats think they can do more in a new company than at SpaceX - he seems pretty passionate about the low mass market. I'm sure theres an interesting story there, he's obviously very intelligent and capable.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 12/02/2014 07:13 AM
I guess an important part of it is that the small sat market just isn't the focus of SpaceX! Falcon 1 was intended for the market Firefly Alpha is supposed to server, but was discontinued in favor of Falcon 9... with that move SpaceX definitely said goodbye to the small sat market and I guess Markusic and pals saw fit to jump into the gap that left.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 12/02/2014 09:25 AM
I guess an important part of it is that the small sat market just isn't the focus of SpaceX! Falcon 1 was intended for the market Firefly Alpha is supposed to server, but was discontinued in favor of Falcon 9... with that move SpaceX definitely said goodbye to the small sat market and I guess Markusic and pals saw fit to jump into the gap that left.

Another possibility is that they chafed under Elon's rules and wanted to do things their own way and realized the barriers to entry are much lower for smallsat launchers.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: edkyle99 on 12/02/2014 02:00 PM
I guess an important part of it is that the small sat market just isn't the focus of SpaceX! Falcon 1 was intended for the market Firefly Alpha is supposed to server, but was discontinued in favor of Falcon 9... with that move SpaceX definitely said goodbye to the small sat market and I guess Markusic and pals saw fit to jump into the gap that left.
Each Orbcomm satellite that Falcon 9 has launched only weighs 160-170-ish kg, so it would appear that SpaceX has not said goodby to small-sats.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: guckyfan on 12/02/2014 02:44 PM
I guess an important part of it is that the small sat market just isn't the focus of SpaceX! Falcon 1 was intended for the market Firefly Alpha is supposed to server, but was discontinued in favor of Falcon 9... with that move SpaceX definitely said goodbye to the small sat market and I guess Markusic and pals saw fit to jump into the gap that left.
Each Orbcomm satellite that Falcon 9 has launched only weighs 160-170-ish kg, so it would appear that SpaceX has not said goodby to small-sats.

 - Ed Kyle

Yes, but those come in bundles. Bundles too big for small launchers to handle. And smallsat launches too expensive to launch them one by one.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: WmThomas on 12/03/2014 04:49 PM
Nice article, Lee-ars.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 12/03/2014 07:19 PM
I guess an important part of it is that the small sat market just isn't the focus of SpaceX! Falcon 1 was intended for the market Firefly Alpha is supposed to server, but was discontinued in favor of Falcon 9... with that move SpaceX definitely said goodbye to the small sat market and I guess Markusic and pals saw fit to jump into the gap that left.
Each Orbcomm satellite that Falcon 9 has launched only weighs 160-170-ish kg, so it would appear that SpaceX has not said goodby to small-sats.

 - Ed Kyle

Yes, but those come in bundles. Bundles too big for small launchers to handle. And smallsat launches too expensive to launch them one by one.

And that really is the fundamental problem for Firefly and all other small launchers: the scale they need to justify their fixed costs is only going to be available with large constellations, and those large constellations will be cheaper to launch bundled on larger launchers.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dcporter on 12/03/2014 08:31 PM
and realized the barriers to entry are much lower for smallsat launchers.

That was SpaceX's strategy too.  8)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 12/04/2014 02:24 AM
and realized the barriers to entry are much lower for smallsat launchers.

That was SpaceX's strategy too.  8)

Yeah, and it worked for them because they quickly moved into larger launchers.  They never had to try to make money just on Falcon 1.  When SpaceX did it, there were no low-cost players in the mid-to-large launcher market.  Now that SpaceX occupies that ground, a new competitor in the mid-to-large launcher market would have to beat SpaceX in some way, which will be really hard.

Which leaves Firefly and the others stuck in the small launcher market with nowhere to go from there.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 12/04/2014 07:54 AM
If Firefly succesfully manages to set up shop in the smallsat market and manages to generate enough revenue there I don't see any hold back with developing an upgrade of their technology for the higher end market.

That way they will always have something to fall back onto, but trying to enter the market as start-up targeting SpaceX's market right now would be suicide I guess.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: gospacex on 12/04/2014 07:56 AM
If Firefly succesfully manages to set up shop in the smallsat market and manages to generate enough revenue there I don't see any hold back with developing an upgrade of their technology for the higher end market.

Other than Elon being able to resurrect Falcon-1 any time and bankrupt them?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 12/04/2014 08:00 AM
I guess that he could in theory, I wouldn't ever expect a move like that though. Also, why would he? Musk wants to go bigger and bolder, not smaller. If anything he should welcome newcommers like Firefly, he helped spark them!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jarnis on 12/04/2014 09:27 AM
If Firefly succesfully manages to set up shop in the smallsat market and manages to generate enough revenue there I don't see any hold back with developing an upgrade of their technology for the higher end market.

Other than Elon being able to resurrect Falcon-1 any time and bankrupt them?

That's silly talk.

- SpaceX has their plate full with bigger things.
- Falcon-1 used older versions of Merlin, upgrading the design to latest Merlin 1D is not free nor instant.

Oh, SpaceX may compete, but I'd expect it to be with "lets stack a lot of these small sats on a F9R or as secondaries on a bigger FH mission", not adding back a small launcher. That also means there will always be market for small payloads with requirements that prevent them to be candidates for a launch on a larger vehicle.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: R7 on 12/04/2014 03:07 PM
I guess an important part of it is that the small sat market just isn't the focus of SpaceX! Falcon 1 was intended for the market Firefly Alpha is supposed to server, but was discontinued in favor of Falcon 9... with that move SpaceX definitely said goodbye to the small sat market and I guess Markusic and pals saw fit to jump into the gap that left.
Each Orbcomm satellite that Falcon 9 has launched only weighs 160-170-ish kg, so it would appear that SpaceX has not said goodby to small-sats.

 - Ed Kyle

Yes, but those come in bundles. Bundles too big for small launchers to handle. And smallsat launches too expensive to launch them one by one.

And that really is the fundamental problem for Firefly and all other small launchers: the scale they need to justify their fixed costs is only going to be available with large constellations, and those large constellations will be cheaper to launch bundled on larger launchers.

Umm, no. Orbcomm deal appears cheap because the original deal with SpaceX was supposed to use F1. That didn't happen and they renegotiated change for two F9s. One F9 is now listed at $61.2M, Orbcomm is paying $42.6M for two launches, original F1 contract was valued at $46.6M . Save for the delay a good deal for Orbcomm but no so much for SpaceX. Had Firefly been around and flying in time SpaceX would probably preferred to have the contract transferred to them if possible, now it's just a net loss nuisance.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Senex on 12/04/2014 05:04 PM

Yeah, and it worked for them because they quickly moved into larger launchers.  They never had to try to make money just on Falcon 1.  When SpaceX did it, there were no low-cost players in the mid-to-large launcher market.  Now that SpaceX occupies that ground, a new competitor in the mid-to-large launcher market would have to beat SpaceX in some way, which will be really hard.

Which leaves Firefly and the others stuck in the small launcher market with nowhere to go from there.

I think there is a market for dedicated launch, for both commercial and military small satellites.  Spacex moved up to larger launches almost immediately because there was a lucrative niche there waiting for someone offering lower prices. 

This is a very young industry — be prepared to be surprised.  I can imagine a number of potential markets for a low-cost, quick-response launch service (Not including military).  It may well be possible to grow a very large business based on even just small payloads. 

Beyond that, I predict the "killer app" will something we haven't thought of yet.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: hop on 12/04/2014 09:38 PM
and realized the barriers to entry are much lower for smallsat launchers.

That was SpaceX's strategy too.  8)
...and SSIA, and Orbital, and a bunch more space startups that never made it off the ground. To date, no one has made much of a business on dedicated smallsat launches. SpaceX got out of that sector as fast as they could, helped along by windfall in the form of CRS.

Can Firefly buck the trend? Time will tell...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: go4mars on 12/04/2014 10:02 PM
I think it's awesome that they're stepping into new, highly scalable tech.  If they get the reusable baby rocket right, they'll be either a great target for acquisition or (hopefly) large scale investment.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jason1701 on 12/04/2014 10:59 PM
I think it's awesome that they're stepping into new, highly scalable tech.  If they get the reusable baby rocket right, they'll be either a great target for acquisition or (hopefly) large scale investment.

Is Firefly's rocket designed to be reusable?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 12/04/2014 11:12 PM
Composite fuselage and tanks are one of the more interesting technologies they plan to use. If they can automate the production of the tanks and fuselage that would be a huge cost saving plus the technology could potentially be scaled up eg 3.6-5metre LVs. I'd be surprised if ULA and Spacex aren't watching them closely along with RocketLab who are also making composite LV. NB The production of fuselage is being outsource under NDA to another company. See Lee_ars article.

This from July.
http://aviationweek.com/space/spacex-alum-goes-after-falcon-1-market-firefly

Here is quote from the article.

The company is also watching the results of composite tankage tests just wrapping up at Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA scuttled the X-33 program in part because an experimental composite liquid hydrogen tank failed during tests at Marshall in 1999. Boeing built the tanks used in the tests this summer using a new out-of-autoclave curing process, and  Markusic—who worked at Marshall for five years—says he and his colleagues have been following the test series closely. Firefly has just signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA for help with the tank technology and other development issues.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 12/04/2014 11:13 PM
I think it's awesome that they're stepping into new, highly scalable tech.  If they get the reusable baby rocket right, they'll be either a great target for acquisition or (hopefly) large scale investment.

Is Firefly's rocket designed to be reusable?

No.  They talk about wanting to eventually make a reusable version at some point in the future.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 12/05/2014 01:00 AM
and realized the barriers to entry are much lower for smallsat launchers.

That was SpaceX's strategy too.  8)
...and SSIA, and Orbital, and a bunch more space startups that never made it off the ground. To date, no one has made much of a business on dedicated smallsat launches. SpaceX got out of that sector as fast as they could, helped along by windfall in the form of CRS.

Can Firefly buck the trend? Time will tell...

I do find it amusing how people seem to want to portray their entry into the smallsat market as some kind of business genius. What choice do they have - Start with something even bigger? SpaceX had to start with something small, even though they were backed by Musk. Without someone like Musk, what else can they do? They are already a long shot as it is.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: edkyle99 on 12/05/2014 02:31 AM
I think there is a market for dedicated launch, for both commercial and military small satellites. 
It would be a small market (no pun intended), and apparently a shrinking market.  Since 1990, there have only been 69 U.S. based launches using vehicles capable of 1 tonne or less to LEO (with 10 failures).  That's less than three attempts per year.  Since 2000 there have only been 21 attempts with 3 failures, an average of only 1.5 per year.  This year there have been none.


 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dcporter on 12/05/2014 02:42 AM
and realized the barriers to entry are much lower for smallsat launchers.

That was SpaceX's strategy too.  8)
...and SSIA, and Orbital, and a bunch more space startups that never made it off the ground. To date, no one has made much of a business on dedicated smallsat launches. SpaceX got out of that sector as fast as they could, helped along by windfall in the form of CRS.

Can Firefly buck the trend? Time will tell...

I do find it amusing how people seem to want to portray their entry into the smallsat market as some kind of business genius.

If I'm "people", you're misreading me.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NaN on 12/05/2014 06:45 AM
I think there is a market for dedicated launch, for both commercial and military small satellites. 
It would be a small market (no pun intended), and apparently a shrinking market.  Since 1990, there have only been 69 U.S. based launches using vehicles capable of 1 tonne or less to LEO (with 10 failures).  That's less than three attempts per year.  Since 2000 there have only been 21 attempts with 3 failures, an average of only 1.5 per year.  This year there have been none.


 - Ed Kyle

They're certainly hoping that the small market grows, or is elastic. But I found this quote telling in the arstechnica article: "Markusic assured us that aerospike engines scale massively and could be used for heavy lift roles". They're trying to not paint themselves into a corner.
I hope they find success because a healthy market needs more than one competitor and they will help keep SpaceX from getting fat and complacent. Plus, aerospike, cool.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: guckyfan on 12/05/2014 07:32 AM
They're certainly hoping that the small market grows, or is elastic. But I found this quote telling in the arstechnica article: "Markusic assured us that aerospike engines scale massively and could be used for heavy lift roles". They're trying to not paint themselves into a corner.

The aerospike concept may scale massively. Pressure fed first stages don't IMO. They have a long and hard way up from Firefly.

I hope they find success because a healthy market needs more than one competitor and they will help keep SpaceX from getting fat and complacent. Plus, aerospike, cool.

And Elon Musk would agree. He too is in favor of competition. He stated that on many occasions in different contexts.

BTW, Aerospike cool. Not a valid argument for me. ;)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 12/05/2014 11:26 AM
We are getting a head of ourselves, competing with SpaceX is looking to far out.

I would be happy to just see a aerospike engine working on a test stand.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 12/05/2014 11:28 AM
We are getting a head of ourselves, competing with SpaceX is looking to far out.

I would be happy to just see a aerospike engine working on a test stand.

That's not going to happen unless they can convince investors they have a viable way to make money, and it's hard to see how they can have that without competing with SpaceX.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 12/05/2014 03:43 PM
We are getting a head of ourselves, competing with SpaceX is looking to far out.

I would be happy to just see a aerospike engine working on a test stand.

That's not going to happen unless they can convince investors they have a viable way to make money, and it's hard to see how they can have that without competing with SpaceX.


This company is based on the concept of not competing with SpaceX - they want to exploit the small payload niche that SpaceX has abandoned.

Given the lack of available "small" launchers for US customers, I could see a provider emerging to take advantage of this lack of supply.


Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NaN on 12/05/2014 06:06 PM
BTW, Aerospike cool. Not a valid argument for me. ;)

Fair enough :)  How about this:
Aerospike engines have been around for a while, and they appear promising in several respects. They have not been flown on an actual LV. If Firefly is able to perform significant development work and build a practical smallsat orbital launcher, it will advance the state-of-the-art for aerospike engines, potentially influencing others in the future.
This is similar to how SpaceX's first-stage reuse efforts, if successful, may well influence others' future developments; that concept has been around for a while but nobody has made a serious effort at it.
Regardless of how either company's attempts pan out, it is (IMO) good to see them willing to try new-yet-promising approaches to improving state-of-the-art rather than solely relying on what has already been proven.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Vultur on 12/06/2014 04:55 AM
The aerospike concept may scale massively. Pressure fed first stages don't IMO.

Well, the Sea Dragon concept from the early 60s used a pressure fed first stage, IIRC. 80 million lb-f thrust engine, 550 metric tons to LEO ;)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: quanthasaquality on 12/06/2014 07:52 AM
We are getting a head of ourselves, competing with SpaceX is looking to far out.

I would be happy to just see a aerospike engine working on a test stand.

That's not going to happen unless they can convince investors they have a viable way to make money, and it's hard to see how they can have that without competing with SpaceX.


This company is based on the concept of not competing with SpaceX - they want to exploit the small payload niche that SpaceX has abandoned.

Given the lack of available "small" launchers for US customers, I could see a provider emerging to take advantage of this lack of supply.

Didn't SpaceX discontinue the Falcon 1 from lack of customers? Doesn't the Epsilon rocket put over 1 ton into orbit, and Vega, about 2 tons?

On the small, and cheap side, there is Iran. It would help if they made a small third stage, or a good, high ISP kerolox, or methlox second stage for the Safir rocket. If solid fuel is cheaper, it would interesting to see a Sejil first and second stage, a safir second stage as third stage, and a small fourth stage.... This topic is close to the scud launcher thread.

I would not invest in Firefly Space Systems.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: go4mars on 12/06/2014 12:31 PM
The aerospike concept may scale massively. Pressure fed first stages don't IMO.

Well, the Sea Dragon concept from the early 60s used a pressure fed first stage, IIRC. 80 million lb-f thrust engine, 550 metric tons to LEO ;)
I assume gucky is thinking apples to apples.  Like an 80 million pound of force parallel staged, composite tank, aerospike rocket designed 50 years later.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: gospacex on 12/06/2014 02:26 PM
If Firefly succesfully manages to set up shop in the smallsat market and manages to generate enough revenue there I don't see any hold back with developing an upgrade of their technology for the higher end market.

Other than Elon being able to resurrect Falcon-1 any time and bankrupt them?

That's silly talk.

- SpaceX has their plate full with bigger things.
- Falcon-1 used older versions of Merlin, upgrading the design to latest Merlin 1D is not free nor instant.

Oh, SpaceX may compete, but I'd expect it to be with "lets stack a lot of these small sats on a F9R or as secondaries on a bigger FH mission", not adding back a small launcher. That also means there will always be market for small payloads with requirements that prevent them to be candidates for a launch on a larger vehicle.

You miss the point.

If Firefly becomes significantly profitable, this will show Musk that there are money to be made in small launcher market.
Then Musk, leveraging his existing engine and mfg capability, can roll out F-1-esque competitor which would be even cheaper than Firefly.

The mere possibility of such scenario makes Firefly's business strategy more risky. If they fail to create a viable rocket, they fail. If they do create it, they get destroyed by Musk.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: mmeijeri on 12/06/2014 02:33 PM
The mere possibility of such scenario makes Firefly's business strategy more risky. If they fail to create a viable rocket, they fail. If they do create it, they get destroyed by Musk.

Or bought out.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Zed_Noir on 12/06/2014 09:10 PM
If Firefly succesfully manages to set up shop in the smallsat market and manages to generate enough revenue there I don't see any hold back with developing an upgrade of their technology for the higher end market.

Other than Elon being able to resurrect Falcon-1 any time and bankrupt them?

That's silly talk.

- SpaceX has their plate full with bigger things.
- Falcon-1 used older versions of Merlin, upgrading the design to latest Merlin 1D is not free nor instant.

Oh, SpaceX may compete, but I'd expect it to be with "lets stack a lot of these small sats on a F9R or as secondaries on a bigger FH mission", not adding back a small launcher. That also means there will always be market for small payloads with requirements that prevent them to be candidates for a launch on a larger vehicle.

You miss the point.

If Firefly becomes significantly profitable, this will show Musk that there are money to be made in small launcher market.
Then Musk, leveraging his existing engine and mfg capability, can roll out F-1-esque competitor which would be even cheaper than Firefly.

The mere possibility of such scenario makes Firefly's business strategy more risky. If they fail to create a viable rocket, they fail. If they do create it, they get destroyed by Musk.

SpaceX will have an use for their end of the life Merlin engines, instead of junking them. After the Merlins go up a few times in the F9R.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 12/06/2014 09:26 PM
SpaceX will have an use for their end of the life Merlin engines, instead of junking them. After the Merlins go up a few times in the F9R.

People always seem to assume that Merlin engines can only last for a few flights.  I think that's the minimum SpaceX is going for.  Once they can land stages, if the engines are wearing out after a few flights, I suspect SpaceX will make some modifications.  I don't think there's any fundamental reason rocket engines can't be made to last hundreds of flights.

If it turns out there really is a big market for Firefly-class payloads, SpaceX can just put a very expendable small upper stage on a F9R first stage to duplicate that capability and it's likely to be cheaper than Firefly.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Zed_Noir on 12/06/2014 09:48 PM
SpaceX will have an use for their end of the life Merlin engines, instead of junking them. After the Merlins go up a few times in the F9R.

People always seem to assume that Merlin engines can only last for a few flights.  I think that's the minimum SpaceX is going for.  Once they can land stages, if the engines are wearing out after a few flights, I suspect SpaceX will make some modifications.  I don't think there's any fundamental reason rocket engines can't be made to last hundreds of flights.

If it turns out there really is a big market for Firefly-class payloads, SpaceX can just put a very expendable small upper stage on a F9R first stage to duplicate that capability and it's likely to be cheaper than Firefly.

Maybe a very few dozen flights before coking from the RP-1 renders the engine non-serviceable. Somehow a few hundreds flights per engine seems overly optimistic for any KeroLox engine.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 12/06/2014 10:01 PM
SpaceX will have an use for their end of the life Merlin engines, instead of junking them. After the Merlins go up a few times in the F9R.

People always seem to assume that Merlin engines can only last for a few flights.  I think that's the minimum SpaceX is going for.  Once they can land stages, if the engines are wearing out after a few flights, I suspect SpaceX will make some modifications.  I don't think there's any fundamental reason rocket engines can't be made to last hundreds of flights.

If it turns out there really is a big market for Firefly-class payloads, SpaceX can just put a very expendable small upper stage on a F9R first stage to duplicate that capability and it's likely to be cheaper than Firefly.

Maybe a very few dozen flights before coking from the RP-1 renders the engine non-serviceable. Somehow a few hundreds flights per engine seems overly optimistic for any KeroLox engine.

It's not impossible they'll find a way to clean the engines.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 12/06/2014 10:03 PM
Hey people
found this on reddit:

http://lhindependent.com/2014/10/firefly-responds-to-concerns-on-rocket-safety-water-use/

then this

"“There isn’t any pollution issue with what we’re doing,” Markusic said. “Everything we’re burning is non-toxic – it’s kerosene and natural gas … I want to be a good neighbor. I have no plans of hurting Briggs.”"

This implies they are thinking of using RP1...
What gives? how does this  fit in with the Methlox option, as totally different beasts?
Testing a new motor option we haven't heard about?  Other reasons?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 12/07/2014 12:32 AM
We are getting a head of ourselves, competing with SpaceX is looking to far out.

I would be happy to just see a aerospike engine working on a test stand.

That's not going to happen unless they can convince investors they have a viable way to make money, and it's hard to see how they can have that without competing with SpaceX.

Kickstarter could keep this alive & there are other ways.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Chris Bergin on 01/07/2015 02:41 PM
I'm told Firefly is having their pre-application meeting with the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation today.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: sghill on 01/07/2015 03:08 PM
If Firefly succesfully manages to set up shop in the smallsat market and manages to generate enough revenue there I don't see any hold back with developing an upgrade of their technology for the higher end market.

Other than Elon being able to resurrect Falcon-1 any time and bankrupt them?

That's silly talk.

- SpaceX has their plate full with bigger things.
- Falcon-1 used older versions of Merlin, upgrading the design to latest Merlin 1D is not free nor instant.

Oh, SpaceX may compete, but I'd expect it to be with "lets stack a lot of these small sats on a F9R or as secondaries on a bigger FH mission", not adding back a small launcher. That also means there will always be market for small payloads with requirements that prevent them to be candidates for a launch on a larger vehicle.

You miss the point.

If Firefly becomes significantly profitable, this will show Musk that there are money to be made in small launcher market.
Then Musk, leveraging his existing engine and mfg capability, can roll out F-1-esque competitor which would be even cheaper than Firefly.

The mere possibility of such scenario makes Firefly's business strategy more risky. If they fail to create a viable rocket, they fail. If they do create it, they get destroyed by Musk.

If anything, Musk is moving towards bigger launchers to support his vision, and not smaller launchers.  Your post is heavily ascribing a motivation to Musk that is inconsistent with SpaceX or Musk's other companies' past and current behavior.  He has consistently had his companies push the state of the art, but not out of a desire to dominate markets, but rather to expand them and open new markets.  To the contrary, his public statements over the past 10 years have been consistently supportive of lower-cost access to space, and Firefly's entrance to the launcher market would be welcomed by him- IMHO. 

Customers- not SpaceX- will ultimately decide if they want to share a ride on a Falcon9 or have their own ride up on a Firefly.  There's no need- or supporting evidence- that SpaceX will make a conscious decision to kill Firefly- or Arienspace and ULA for that matter. He feels he's got a competitive product, and Firefly is playing in a different market space (albeit with some overlap).

For example, SpaceX developed a technology that allowed for cheaper access to space, and another technology that is offering cheaper (and better IMHO) access to non-polluting vehicles.  The fact that competitors of SpaceX and Tesla offer more expensive or less attractive product alternatives is immaterial.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/08/2015 01:41 AM
The mere possibility of such scenario makes Firefly's business strategy more risky. If they fail to create a viable rocket, they fail. If they do create it, they get destroyed by Musk.
Customers- not SpaceX- will ultimately decide if they want to share a ride on a Falcon9 or have their own ride up on a Firefly.  There's no need- or supporting evidence- that SpaceX will make a conscious decision to kill Firefly- or Arienspace and ULA for that matter. He feels he's got a competitive product, and Firefly is playing in a different market space (albeit with some overlap).
This is a classic "what if Google does what we are trying to do" question for all startups, and common advice is to spend about 5 seconds thinking about it, and then keep on executing on your plans.
If anything, if a large player announces plans to compete in the space that you are about to make your break, it validates your market analysis to all investors - Googles and SpaceXes of the world wouldnt try if there isnt money to be made.

For example:
http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/75314/13-Ways-To-Think-About-And-Crush-Your-Competition.aspx
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 01/08/2015 01:47 AM
SpaceX started out with a commercial business plan: lean development and operation of rockets with most of the hardware production outsourced. They targeted a small market they felt was neglected and that they could dominate, and from there grow. All that changed when they won a government contract.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/08/2015 02:00 AM
The mere possibility of such scenario makes Firefly's business strategy more risky. If they fail to create a viable rocket, they fail. If they do create it, they get destroyed by Musk.
Customers- not SpaceX- will ultimately decide if they want to share a ride on a Falcon9 or have their own ride up on a Firefly.  There's no need- or supporting evidence- that SpaceX will make a conscious decision to kill Firefly- or Arienspace and ULA for that matter. He feels he's got a competitive product, and Firefly is playing in a different market space (albeit with some overlap).
This is a classic "what if Google does what we are trying to do" question for all startups, and common advice is to spend about 5 seconds thinking about it, and then keep on executing on your plans.
If anything, if a large player announces plans to compete in the space that you are about to make your break, it validates your market analysis to all investors - Googles and SpaceXes of the world wouldnt try if there isnt money to be made.

For example:
http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/75314/13-Ways-To-Think-About-And-Crush-Your-Competition.aspx

Sometimes a giant coming into your space means it validates the market.  That's the spin all start-ups use when it happens and when trying to pitch to investors.

The sad truth, though, is that often the giant crushes the small innovator.  Not always, but a good share of the time.

It all depends on the details.  Is there some advantage the small innovator has?  Can the giant leverage its existing business to get an advantage?

In the case of Firefly, I don't see much advantage they'd have over SpaceX if SpaceX chose to compete with them.  There's probably enough overlap between the small dedicated launch business and SpaceX's other business they'd have a distinct advantage.

I still don't think there's a large enough market for dedicated small satellite launches to make it worth SpaceX's while to get into it (again).  I don't think it's enough to support Firefly either.  And it's only going to get smaller as SpaceX perfects first-stage reusability and lowers the cost of launch, because it means more opportunities to ride as a secondary payload and lower prices for those secondary payloads.   It makes it easier for a few payloads to get together and share a dedicated F9R flight.

A dedicated flight might be preferable to some small payload owners.  But as the cost of non-dedicated alternatives goes down, the dedicated flight becomes proportionately more expensive.  They might be less willing to buy a dedicated flight if it's 20x more expensive than if it's 2x more expensive.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 01/08/2015 02:25 AM
SpaceX started out with a commercial business plan: lean development and operation of rockets with most of the hardware production outsourced. They targeted a small market they felt was neglected and that they could dominate, and from there grow. All that changed when they won a government contract.

Luck favors those that are prepared...

("We don't rely on luck, we just consider it in our plans")
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Garrett on 01/08/2015 08:03 AM
SpaceX started out with a commercial business plan: lean development and operation of rockets with most of the hardware production outsourced. They targeted a small market they felt was neglected and that they could dominate, and from there grow. All that changed when they won a government contract.
I'll add to your narrative:
SpaceX's ultimate goal has always been to provide a way for humans to settle Mars. To achieve that goal, SpaceX started out with a commercial business plan: lean development and operation of rockets with most of the hardware production outsourced. They targeted a small market they felt was neglected and that they could dominate, and from there grow. However, it was by no means certain that dominating a niche market would allow them to grow to the point of being able to build rockets capable of going to Mars. All that changed when they won a government contract. The government contract gave them an opportunity to leap-frog the "niche-rocket-market-champions" phase and get stuck into the bigger rockets sooner. They also found that many suppliers charged exaggerated prices for rocket and space-fidelity components, so they transitioned to being more vertically integrated.  They still maintain, however, over 3000 suppliers with some 1100 of those delivering to SpaceX nearly weekly.

To link this with respect to Firefly Space Systems and keep the conversation on-topic, FSS have no ambitions of going to Mars or other such grand ambitions. FSS was created to "provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market". A very different philosophy to that of SpaceX, so if* they stick to their principles the outcome should be quite different.

*if = big if
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: dror on 01/08/2015 09:12 AM
Spacex is not the only possible direct competition.
I read all the time about new dedicated launch vehicles for the  "under-served small satellite market" or whatever it's called by the new contender. I think I've read  it at least 10 times in the resent past from such as DARPA, Boeing, Lockheed, masten, altius, ARCA space, Swiss, stratolaunch, Xcor... you name it. They all have some smallest launcher in the making.
Spacex  is the last to worry about since they have already moved on.
Unless they find a way to make it reusable, like using a reusable second stage as a booster.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: parabolicarc on 01/08/2015 05:27 PM
One interesting tidbit from the announcement is that it sounds like they will be focusing on sun-synchronous orbits,  which makes sense for comm sat constellations and downward-looking telescopes, but also means they need a launch site like Vanderburg where they can launch polar, slightly retrograde.

Why rule out Sea Launch? It looks small enough.

Or Kodiak.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 01/08/2015 07:41 PM
Firefly most likely competition at present is Rocketlab and they are about a year ahead.
NB near Firefly or any of the small sat wantabe LV providers are flying yet so there is no actual competition.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/08/2015 08:19 PM
Firefly most likely competition at present is Rocketlab and they are about a year ahead.
NB near Firefly or any of the small sat wantabe LV providers are flying yet so there is no actual competition.
I would think Shtil or Volna.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/09/2015 02:19 AM
SpaceX started out with a commercial business plan: lean development and operation of rockets with most of the hardware production outsourced. They targeted a small market they felt was neglected and that they could dominate, and from there grow. All that changed when they won a government contract.

This was SpaceX's modest goals in 2003:

"THE FALCON FAMILY OF LAUNCH VEHICLES IS INTENDED TO PROVIDE
*THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF DESIGN RELIABILITY
*THE MOST BENIGN FLIGHT ENVIRONMENT
*A LONG TERM REDUCTION IN COST BY A FACTOR OF TEN"

They are much further along /because/ they got a government contract than they would be if they hadn't. They didn't announce Falcon 9 until after their govt contract (sometime in 2004 or 2005?). They wouldn't be threatening ULA or Ariane (Falcon V is much too small except for Delta II and R7 class launches to LEO, at best!). They probably also wouldn't have built Dragon in this time. They wouldn't be talking about Mars colonization or working on BFR or MCT or any of that. They may not even have survived the Recession and the loss of their first 3 Falcon 1s.

If government contracts have "gotten in the way" of SpaceX, then I hope they get a whole lot more of them.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/09/2015 02:23 AM
Anyway, how many launches ARE there in the Falcon 1 range? I counted. Last year, only 2 orbital launches were on rockets near or less than Falcon 1 or 1e payload to LEO (400-1000kg, none to GTO), neither of which were commercial or domestic US. And Falcon 5 was to have 4100kg to LEO and 1050kg to GTO. Of these launches, only 11 were Falcon 5 or lower capability (plus the 2 in Falcon 1/1e's range), and many of those were national payloads that F5 wouldn't have had a chance to win, leaving just 4 non-national payloads that Falcon 5 could've launched (not counting payloads launched on heavier vehicles that could've squeaked by on F5), and 0 that could've flown on F1/1e. (In this analysis, I wasn't counting secondaries.)

Quote
2014 launches, modified from Ed Kyle's list
LV      launches   approximate LEO payload (kg)
Atlas 5      9   14300
Proton      8   20700
CZ4      7   4200 (but 1500 to GTO)
CZ 2      6   3675  *0 F5, all Chinese national
Ariane 5      6   21000
Falcon 9      6   14500
Delta 4      4   19105
H-2A      4   10000
PSLV      3   3250 (2 of which were to GTO, with 1425kg capability) *1 F5
Antares      3   6120
CZ 3      2   8615
Dnepr      2   4500 *2 F5
Rokot/Briz KM      2   1950 *0 F5, all russian national
Zenit      1   13740
Delta 2      1   6100
GSLV      1   5000
Vega      1   2500 *1 F5
Strela      1   2000 *0 F5, Russian national
Kuaizhou      1   300 *0 F1/1e/5, Chinese national
Shavit 2      1   800 *0 F1/1e/5, Israeli national

It's not like small launch vehicles don't exist. They do. It's just that there is really not much of an existing market for them beyond a few national payloads.

Most of the payloads are for larger rockets or catch a much cheaper secondary ride. It's much harder to justify entering the small launch vehicle market except as a stepping stone to the MUCH higher revenue medium-to-heavy lift market.

So the only thing that makes sense is that Firefly must think there's an enormous untapped market out there for small payloads, hiding as secondaries on the larger vehicles.  You're fighting for a small part of the pie and expending nearly as much capital as you might for a medium launch vehicle (which has a much larger market cap). I guess I'm concern-trolling, because I just don't see much of a business case (although I do wish them luck, especially now that they intend to make a reusable rocket).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 01/09/2015 02:36 AM
If government contracts have "gotten in the way" of SpaceX, then I hope they get a whole lot more of them.

I'm sure they do too. Not sure what your point is..
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/09/2015 02:45 AM
If government contracts have "gotten in the way" of SpaceX, then I hope they get a whole lot more of them.

I'm sure they do too. Not sure what your point is..
I'm not sure what your point is, either.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 01/09/2015 02:52 AM
If government contracts have "gotten in the way" of SpaceX, then I hope they get a whole lot more of them.

I'm sure they do too. Not sure what your point is..
I'm not sure what your point is, either.

My point is that Firefly's business plan will probably change once they win government contracts.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/09/2015 04:59 AM
t's not like small launch vehicles don't exist. They do. It's just that there is really not much of an existing market for them beyond a few national payloads.

Most of the payloads are for larger rockets or catch a much cheaper secondary ride. It's much harder to justify entering the small launch vehicle market except as a stepping stone to the MUCH higher revenue medium-to-heavy lift market.

There are pretty comprehensive market reports for various payload classes etc. The whole launch industry sees such small activity levels that there is actually more analysis than launches being done
 
http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/2014_GSO_NGSO_Forecast_Report_FAA_COMSTAC_July_15_2014.pdf
http://www.sia.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/SIA_2014_SSIR.pdf
( i didnt find the latest Futron links off the cuff )

"Cubesats represented the majority of R&D satellites, but less than 1% of the revenues".

Now, for small companies, if they manage to stay small, capturing 10% of the 1% is enough to survive. But ..

Quote
Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50 - 50 chance of living, though there's only a 10 percent chance of that.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 01/09/2015 06:12 AM
I'm sure they do too. Not sure what your point is..
I'm not sure what your point is, either.

Why let such trivialities get in the way of a good argument?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Oli on 01/09/2015 06:33 AM
t's not like small launch vehicles don't exist. They do. It's just that there is really not much of an existing market for them beyond a few national payloads.

Most of the payloads are for larger rockets or catch a much cheaper secondary ride. It's much harder to justify entering the small launch vehicle market except as a stepping stone to the MUCH higher revenue medium-to-heavy lift market.

There are pretty comprehensive market reports for various payload classes etc. The whole launch industry sees such small activity levels that there is actually more analysis than launches being done
 
http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/2014_GSO_NGSO_Forecast_Report_FAA_COMSTAC_July_15_2014.pdf
http://www.sia.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/SIA_2014_SSIR.pdf
( i didnt find the latest Futron links off the cuff )

"Cubesats represented the majority of R&D satellites, but less than 1% of the revenues".

Now, for small companies, if they manage to stay small, capturing 10% of the 1% is enough to survive. But ..

Cubesats are not Micro and Minisatellites though (~10-600kg). The first report you linked says there will be demand for small sat launchers once they become available (page 70). Given that quite a few companies are aiming for that market, I think there's something to it, but I doubt the market is big enough to sustain many of them.

It's not like small launch vehicles don't exist.

Actually they don't in that payload category.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/09/2015 06:58 AM
Actually they don't in that payload category.
Dnepr regularly launches small sats. China has Kuaizhou. Minotaur and Pegasus still exist. Rokot, Strela, Epsilon, are there. And then on the real low end of the spectrum, already mentioned Shtil and Volna. Even though latter ones havent done many launches, Shtil apparently manifested a couple of new ones just this year.

I guess as a sat builder, the question that i would be asking is what would a new launch provider be giving me that a proven Dnepr wouldn't. ITAR freedom would be one possible answer.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Oli on 01/09/2015 08:51 AM
Actually they don't in that payload category.
Dnepr regularly launches small sats. China has Kuaizhou. Minotaur and Pegasus still exist. Rokot, Strela, Epsilon, are there. And then on the real low end of the spectrum, already mentioned Shtil and Volna. Even though latter ones havent done many launches, Shtil apparently manifested a couple of new ones just this year.

I guess as a sat builder, the question that i would be asking is what would a new launch provider be giving me that a proven Dnepr wouldn't. ITAR freedom would be one possible answer.

Dnepr launches like 4500kg into LEO, that's an order of magnitude more than a small sat launcher like Launcher One with 250kg. Rokot, Epsilon, Vega all aunch 1.5t+. Shtil and Volna haven't launched anything for a decade, are they even commercially available?

You're right about Pegasus though, but apparently it costs $55m. Why is it so expensive?

http://innerspace.net/current-launch-vehicles/pegasus-launch-cost-soars-to-55-million/

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/09/2015 04:40 PM
Actually they don't in that payload category.
Dnepr regularly launches small sats. China has Kuaizhou. Minotaur and Pegasus still exist. Rokot, Strela, Epsilon, are there. And then on the real low end of the spectrum, already mentioned Shtil and Volna. Even though latter ones havent done many launches, Shtil apparently manifested a couple of new ones just this year.

I guess as a sat builder, the question that i would be asking is what would a new launch provider be giving me that a proven Dnepr wouldn't. ITAR freedom would be one possible answer.

Dnepr launches like 4500kg into LEO, that's an order of magnitude more than a small sat launcher like Launcher One with 250kg. Rokot, Epsilon, Vega all aunch 1.5t+. Shtil and Volna haven't launched anything for a decade, are they even commercially available?

You're right about Pegasus though, but apparently it costs $55m. Why is it so expensive?

http://innerspace.net/current-launch-vehicles/pegasus-launch-cost-soars-to-55-million/



Look at Dnepr's recent launches, they are all multi-manifested small sats.
Shtil is getting back to service apparently soon, according to statements by Makeyev.

I dont doubt that there is room here for a dedicated one-cubesat at a time launcher, just to avoid the need to talk to Russian military to get your university project on orbit. Question is how much.

Cubesat launches/year seem to have hit a temporary peak in 2014, and only because of PlanetLabs.

Thats another thing about smallsats - most of the applications worth any money on market would be constellation apps like Planetlabs, but if you are launching a constellation it just makes a ton of sense logistically to get a bigger cluster of them on a single bigger launch vehicle.

But time will tell, "A rocket a day keeps high costs away" (https://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/rocketaday.html) is still very interesting piece of prose.

Oh, and why is Pegasus so expensive ? Because F-1 is not on market.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/09/2015 04:48 PM
Actually, to make a small sat launcher like Firefly, RocketLab or now Lins actually happen, it to have a joint business plan with some cubesat/nanosat application from the get go. I.e. your rocket will have an anchor customer with solid business from the get go for some reasonable capacity and launch frequency.
In case of Firefly, im hoping this actually might be the case, looking at their backers.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 01/10/2015 12:16 AM
You're right about Pegasus though, but apparently it costs $55m. Why is it so expensive?

http://innerspace.net/current-launch-vehicles/pegasus-launch-cost-soars-to-55-million/

Because NASA is dumb enough to pay that much?

Companies generally charge as much as they think they can get their customers to pay.

If Firefly actually comes to market, you might see Pegasus costs drop substantially.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/10/2015 03:35 AM
...much of it is the fact that 1) Pegasus rarely ever launches these days--which should tell you a little something about Firefly's market--and 2) it's the cheapest US-based rocket that has a good track record (partly because the other rockets haven't flown that much), thus NASA is willing to use it in spite of 1).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/10/2015 03:45 AM
Dnepr is actually a pretty good deal. It's about $10-15 million, from what I can gather (though it probably has gone up). That's pretty dang good for 4500kg to LEO (and enough stages to have decent performance beyond LEO) that has had a 20 out of 21 success rate.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/10/2015 03:48 AM
If Firefly actually comes to market, you might see Pegasus costs drop substantially.
F-1 came and went, and the price of Pegasus flight only kept going up :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 01/10/2015 03:49 AM
Dnepr is actually a pretty good deal. It's about $10-15 million, from what I can gather (though it probably has gone up). That's pretty dang good for 4500kg to LEO (and enough stages to have decent performance beyond LEO) that has had a 20 out of 21 success rate.
Shtil was claimed to be insanely cheap, on the order of $100K and the customer wasn't paying for much of anything - Russian navy apparently appreciates launch practice anyway.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Oli on 01/10/2015 06:41 AM
Thats another thing about smallsats - most of the applications worth any money on market would be constellation apps like Planetlabs, but if you are launching a constellation it just makes a ton of sense logistically to get a bigger cluster of them on a single bigger launch vehicle.

All right, you've convinced me its hopeless. That can be said about the entering the launch industry in general though. I was trying to be more optimistic for once. :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 01/10/2015 06:43 AM
Thats another thing about smallsats - most of the applications worth any money on market would be constellation apps like Planetlabs, but if you are launching a constellation it just makes a ton of sense logistically to get a bigger cluster of them on a single bigger launch vehicle.

All right, you've convinced me its hopeless. That can be said about the entering the launch industry in general though. I was trying to be more optimistic for once. :)

The optimistic argument is that replacement of satellites is best done as soon as possible, and that drives a need for a responsive smallsat launcher.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 01/10/2015 06:51 AM
Actually they don't in that payload category.
Dnepr regularly launches small sats. China has Kuaizhou. Minotaur and Pegasus still exist. Rokot, Strela, Epsilon, are there. And then on the real low end of the spectrum, already mentioned Shtil and Volna. Even though latter ones havent done many launches, Shtil apparently manifested a couple of new ones just this year.

I guess as a sat builder, the question that i would be asking is what would a new launch provider be giving me that a proven Dnepr wouldn't. ITAR freedom would be one possible answer.

Dnepr launches like 4500kg into LEO, that's an order of magnitude more than a small sat launcher like Launcher One with 250kg. Rokot, Epsilon, Vega all aunch 1.5t+. Shtil and Volna haven't launched anything for a decade, are they even commercially available?

You're right about Pegasus though, but apparently it costs $55m. Why is it so expensive?

http://innerspace.net/current-launch-vehicles/pegasus-launch-cost-soars-to-55-million/
The Chinese Feitian-1 (commercialised Kuaizhou) is now available at about 500kg, but we don't have pricing information.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/10/2015 06:54 AM
Thats another thing about smallsats - most of the applications worth any money on market would be constellation apps like Planetlabs, but if you are launching a constellation it just makes a ton of sense logistically to get a bigger cluster of them on a single bigger launch vehicle.

All right, you've convinced me its hopeless. That can be said about the entering the launch industry in general though. I was trying to be more optimistic for once. :)
Well, Firefly is probably big enough to launch dozens of cubesats at a time. That was what Pegasus did.

It's not like it's impossible, it's jut hard. It's usually a good way to lose a lot of money, but it isn't hopeless.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: jongoff on 01/10/2015 05:18 PM
Thats another thing about smallsats - most of the applications worth any money on market would be constellation apps like Planetlabs, but if you are launching a constellation it just makes a ton of sense logistically to get a bigger cluster of them on a single bigger launch vehicle.

All right, you've convinced me its hopeless. That can be said about the entering the launch industry in general though. I was trying to be more optimistic for once. :)

The optimistic argument is that replacement of satellites is best done as soon as possible, and that drives a need for a responsive smallsat launcher.

Well, you also need to realize that most constellations have several discreet planes they're launching into (same inclination, different Right Angle of the Ascending Node). I can't remember how many Iridium has, but it's at least six. In order to move from plane to plane, a plane change maneuver is too painful, so you usually use differential nodal regression--ie you move into a phasing orbit that's either higher or lower than the intended destination orbit, and let the slightly different nodal regression rate compared to your destination plane slowly move your RAAN over into the new position. In the case of LEO, you're kind of limited with how different your orbits can be--go too much lower and you run into air drag issues, go too much higher and you run into radiation issues. I don't have numbers off the top of my head, but I think it means that unless your phasing orbit is really different from your destination orbit (which requires the satellites or dispensers to do a lot of maneuvering), it can take months to go from one plane to another the cheap way.

Basically, I think that past one plane-worth, you hit some diminishing returns for launching more satellites on a single launch. Both due to time-value of money, and the need for more maneuvering capabilities or a more complex dispenser. If the bigger LV is way way cheaper, it might still make sense, but I could see situations where you wouldn't want to take a year to have your system come on line just to fly on a F9, for instance.

Food for thought, hopefully,

~Jon
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 01/10/2015 06:33 PM
Totally agreed. If Firefly's rockets are Pegasus XL class, then there should be some work for them launching each plane in a constellation. But that requires lots of smallsat constellations. There will be some, no doubt.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: A_M_Swallow on 01/10/2015 11:37 PM
Firefire may wish to investigate launching satellites with on board thrusters.  Many primary payload customers do not like secondary payloads that contain propellant and other dangerous materials.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 01/12/2015 07:53 AM
It is an openly admitted fact by NASA anyway that they are willing to put down a little more tax payer money for some proven/legacy tech!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: yg1968 on 01/13/2015 04:35 PM
SAA signed with NASA:
http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/firefly-space-systems-and-nasa-have-inked-space-act-agreement
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 02/04/2015 05:44 PM
NasaWatch is tweeting right now from FAACST2015:

NASA Watch ‏@NASAWatch  8m
Tom Markusic - what is going on now is bigger than @SpaceX #faacst2015

NASA Watch ‏@NASAWatch  7m
Tom Markusic says that there is a lot of need right now for a Falcon 1 class rocket #faacst2015

NASA Watch ‏@NASAWatch  4m
Tom Markusic our goal is to get to space as soon as possible - very low cost, mass produced launch vehicle at FIrefly #faacst2015

NASA Watch ‏@NASAWatch  3m
Tom Markusic: None of the technology in Firefly rocket is new - someone else has already used this. We've been at this for 1 yr #faacst2015

NASA Watch ‏@NASAWatch  2m
Firefly is pressure-fed, aerospike vehicle using carbon composite structures #faacst2015
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: fthomassy on 02/24/2015 09:41 PM
https://app.hedgeye.com/insights/42456-real-conversations-how-firefly-ceo-tom-markusic-is-changing-the-parad

Enjoy!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 02/24/2015 09:53 PM
https://app.hedgeye.com/insights/42456-real-conversations-how-firefly-ceo-tom-markusic-is-changing-the-parad

Enjoy!

Don't you actually have to change the paradigm before you can talk about how you are changing the paradigm? I wish them well, but so far there is a lot of talk and not a lot to show for it.

When can we expect to see some hardware components being tested?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 02/25/2015 07:21 AM
Hmm, to bad it doesn't really have any new information on where they are technically. How is the development going, when can we expect to see machined parts being tested, how is the selection for a launch site going, etc...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: bstrong on 02/26/2015 04:01 PM
I've been pondering possible sources of funding for Firefly lately and thought I'd share my conclusions:

I think it will be very challenging for Firefly to secure venture funding. Despite their reputation as risk takers, VC's are generally quite wary of capital-intensive businesses with uncertain payoffs over a long time horizon. Especially ones started by unproven entrepreneurs. They will, however, all happily take meetings with Firefly in order to learn about the smallsat market. I hope Markusic isn't wasting too much time pitching to them.

That said, I think there are a number of entities that would invest for strategic reasons, even absent a clear business model. A few general categories:

1) Google's competitors, who, after the Google-SpaceX deal want to make sure they have a launch partner in case they decide to build their own constellation. Someone like Facebook might do this purely for option value, even if they have no concrete plans today. If they did have concrete plans, they could effectively bring their own market.

2) Commercial satellite operators who want to help grow a low-cost competitor to SpaceX, so they aren't forced to buy launch services from a competitor. They will be more interested in the follow-on vehicle than the the F1-class launcher, but they may find a way to throw some small payloads Firefly's way, both to help them get off the ground and as a way to start gaining direct experience with smallsats, so they are prepared in the eventuality that they turn out to be a competitive threat to their core businesses.

3) An aerospace company (i.e., Boeing/LM) who knows they are incapable of building a low-cost vehicle internally but would like to have the option of acquiring one if it is successful. Again, probably more interested in follow-on vehicles, but everyone knows you have to start somewhere.

4) An ego-driven, space-crazed billionaire who wants to be mentioned in the same sentence as Elon. There are a surprising number of these in the world.

In order to attract one of these types of investors, the main thing Markusic needs to do is prove that he and his team have the technical chops to pull off what he is promising, which is hopefully an easier problem than proving that a market for an F1-class launcher exists.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 02/26/2015 04:17 PM
I think Firefly has a chance, if they can execute.

There is a significant (though small) market in the Falcon 1/1e and Minotaur range. It's a challenge to compete there, but I it's not impossible.

And long-term (12+ years), even if everything goes SpaceX's way and SpaceX dominates the market (BFR, MCT, maybe a mini-BFR to replace Falcon Heavy, Mega-Constellation, etc), SpaceX may even abandon the Delta II payload class, leaving opportunity for a fully reusable rocket in that range. Nobody knows for sure, but in order to take advantage of opportunities like that, you have to be around and competing.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 02/27/2015 09:21 AM
Update from their Facebook page:

Quote
Our recently installed Liquid Oxygen storage tank at the test site — in Briggs, Texas.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: edkyle99 on 02/27/2015 08:53 PM
The Briggs test site is only 200 acres, and reportedly is adjacent to U.S. Highway 183 and near County Road 210 (possibly just southwest of that intersection).  That seems quite close to Briggs itself, and to other neighbors.  I wonder why they settled in so close to other people in a state so big?  My guess is that the neighbors won't be happy, although their primary concerns voiced to date have been about water use.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 02/27/2015 09:15 PM
Makes logistics easier. People don't always bring bag lunches.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 02/28/2015 05:18 AM
https://app.hedgeye.com/insights/42456-real-conversations-how-firefly-ceo-tom-markusic-is-changing-the-parad

I finally watched this video, and apparently they are targeting one launch a week.  :o To be fair he did mention that they could be profitable doing less. But still - that's a lot. Call be a skeptic, but yes I am skeptical, and will continue to be so until they launch something.

There appears to be no mention of reusability of either stage, so I guess they are betting on being able to produce a lots of cheap expendable rockets.

Is there any word on a launch site? If you plan on capturing most of the launch market for this light class payloads, I would presume that you need a launch site where you can launch to a lot of orbits from. Wallops might be interested in another user. Otherwise I guess they can try to wrangle a pad from Space Florida/KSC/CCAFS. I don't see how a Texas launch site (near Boca Chica?) would provide the support the kind of orbits their customers would need.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 02/28/2015 02:51 PM
They have mentioned they intend to pursue reusability.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 03/09/2015 11:09 PM
http://www.fireflyspace.com/newblog

Interesting.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 03/11/2015 06:15 AM
http://www.fireflyspace.com/newblog

Interesting.

They seem to be saying the right things.  Not much in the way of differentiators from SpaceX, though.

One difference from SpaceX is that they plan to fly their first stage sub-orbitally before putting a second stage on it.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 03/11/2015 06:27 AM
One difference from SpaceX is that they plan to fly their first stage sub-orbitally before putting a second stage on it.

Really? I hadn't heard that. Sounds like an easy way to get flight experience.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 03/11/2015 06:34 AM
From Tom's blog:

Quote
Development milestones for Firefly’s first vehicle are: full-scale core propulsion and structures technology demonstration, first stage ground test, sub-orbital first stage flight test, second stage ground test, full vehicle orbital flight test.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 03/11/2015 07:13 AM
Thanks, I missed that!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Mader Levap on 03/11/2015 10:48 AM
They seem to be saying the right things.  Not much in the way of differentiators from SpaceX, though.
I think it is pretty deliberate. Use what worked for SpaceX. For example, they want to make expandable first, partially reusable later too.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: fthomassy on 03/11/2015 03:17 PM
Thanks, I missed that!
Yeah ... where's a S#!+ Tom says site when you need one :D
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 04/02/2015 12:46 AM
http://www.hedgeyetv.com/v/33581/real-conversations-how-firefly-founder-tom-markusic-is-changing-the-new-space-paradigm
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 04/02/2015 07:17 AM
That video was already posted here over a month ago :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: mhlas7 on 04/09/2015 06:14 PM
Firefly Space Systems on Track for 2017 Debut Launch: http://www.satellitetoday.com/launch/2015/04/06/firefly-space-systems-on-track-for-2017-debut-launch/

Summary:
Seeking $85m to finish development
Engine test site nearing completion. First test firings could start in May
Tank design to be completed by the end of the year
Expendable at first, reusable later
Talking to 5 launch site providers. Decision by the end of the year
No launch insurance needed for satellites. Free re-flight if the rocket fails
Goal of 7 launches after the first successful launch
Firefly Beta will lift 1.1T
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 04/09/2015 08:38 PM
Having an operating engine on test stand this summer should help with fund raising.
Offering 120kg to 500km SSO for $4.95m to compete with Rocket lab 110kg for $4.9m.
Firefly may struggle to sell these launches, given Rocket lab will have 2year head start, should be commercially flying in 2016.

Pressure feed engine has a few pluses to make up for its lower performance. Quicker and cheaper to develop/build and should be more reliable. The most important thing is to get flying ASAP and start earning money.

I'm picking their long term plan is to develop a pump feed version.

Expect a lot of innovations from Firefly and Rocket Lab even after they are flying successfully. Especially if they are competing with each other.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Silversheep2011 on 05/08/2015 11:35 PM
A paper from J.M.Meyers titled "ME239:Rocket Propulsion Over and Under expanded nozzles and nozzle Configurations".
 
The relevance to "FireFly discussion" is that mid-way through the presentation is what some of us would  call an 'easy to understand' slides of what makes Aero spike nozzle designs work  and some not normally seen detail of  how they function. Likely to be interesting.
 relates to  a few pages previously in the forum.

[credit: to mtnspirit at reddit for finding this one.]
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/23/2015 03:11 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/23/2015 03:23 PM
And another one about the simulation of the aerospike with ANSYS Multiphysics:
https://twitter.com/k2thefea/status/590572507989745664
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/23/2015 03:58 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216
Any payload figures for the flyback version?.
.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/23/2015 04:21 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216
Any payload figures for the flyback version?.
.
Looking at the picture at a little higher resolution, look to be about 5000kg. Hard to tell though.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/23/2015 04:22 PM
Also, it looks like Beta's strap-on boosters are reusable.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Zed_Noir on 05/23/2015 06:03 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket...

They say how they are landing Firefly Gamma? (e.g. conventional landing gear, parachutes & airbags,...)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: matthewkantar on 05/23/2015 06:40 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216
Any payload figures for the flyback version?.
.

Looks like payload is 5000 Kg on the slide in the second image, not totally sure. Big machine if this is the correct number, 200 tons or so at lift off.

Looks like 13 engines on the second graphic, I wonder if that is for the Gamma, or if they have upped the engine count for the Alpha.

Matthew
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 05/23/2015 07:46 PM
5 tons, I like.

You can't build a company on launching one small-sat at a time, and so 5 tons is a good spot for the constellation market.

Now - How does Gamma work?   Drop-off boosters?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 05/23/2015 08:07 PM
Gamma could be a success, but they'd need to be able to beat the price of Falcon 9 (not per kg, but per launch).  It's plausible they could because it's a smaller vehicle.  But SpaceX has economies of scale and a head start.  I think Falcon 9-class payloads will be much more common, partly because if large constellations of smaller satellites do materialize, they'll be able to launch large numbers at a time to the same plane.  Firefly could make a go of it, but it will be tough.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 05/23/2015 08:11 PM
Firefly Space Systems on Track for 2017 Debut Launch: http://www.satellitetoday.com/launch/2015/04/06/firefly-space-systems-on-track-for-2017-debut-launch/

Summary:
Seeking $85m to finish development
Engine test site nearing completion. First test firings could start in May
Tank design to be completed by the end of the year
Expendable at first, reusable later
Talking to 5 launch site providers. Decision by the end of the year
No launch insurance needed for satellites. Free re-flight if the rocket fails
Goal of 7 launches after the first successful launch
Firefly Beta will lift 1.1T

I don't get the bit about no need for launch insurance.  Customers generally want to insure their satellites.  Firefly can't just declare that launch insurance isn't necessary because they'll refly for free -- a free reflight doesn't cover the cost of building a  new copy of the payload, or the lost revenue from a delay while it's rebuilt.

At $5 million per launch we're not talking college students putting up cubesats built from spare parts.  I think a customer with $5 million to spend on a launch is going to want insurance.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/23/2015 08:46 PM
Between aerospikes variable ISP and composite construction this RLV looks viable all they need is a little R&D $$$. $500m should do it.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 05/24/2015 02:41 AM
Firefly Space Systems on Track for 2017 Debut Launch: http://www.satellitetoday.com/launch/2015/04/06/firefly-space-systems-on-track-for-2017-debut-launch/

Summary:
Seeking $85m to finish development
Engine test site nearing completion. First test firings could start in May
Tank design to be completed by the end of the year
Expendable at first, reusable later
Talking to 5 launch site providers. Decision by the end of the year
No launch insurance needed for satellites. Free re-flight if the rocket fails
Goal of 7 launches after the first successful launch
Firefly Beta will lift 1.1T

I don't get the bit about no need for launch insurance.  Customers generally want to insure their satellites.  Firefly can't just declare that launch insurance isn't necessary because they'll refly for free -- a free reflight doesn't cover the cost of building a  new copy of the payload, or the lost revenue from a delay while it's rebuilt.

At $5 million per launch we're not talking college students putting up cubesats built from spare parts.  I think a customer with $5 million to spend on a launch is going to want insurance.

I think you can insure either or both of launch and payload.  He's saying you still need to insure the payload, but you don't need to insure the launch. 

Kind of.

If for whatever reason their launcher is not reliable, and a launch failed, they will give you a re-flight, but they won't reimburse the launch cost - so now you (and your payload insurer) have some thinking to do.

But - I think it's shrewd, and people will take them up on it.  Insurers understand how to weigh risks.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Calphor on 05/24/2015 03:02 AM
Between aerospikes variable ISP and composite construction this RLV looks viable all they need is a little R&D $$$. $500m should do it.
How is the variable Isp on an aerospike any different than the variable Isp on a bell nozzle? The only major difference between the two is the slight dip in Isp that occurs in the wake closure regime. That shouldn't be that big of a challenge for a decent avionics package.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/24/2015 04:29 AM
Between aerospikes variable ISP and composite construction this RLV looks viable all they need is a little R&D $$$. $500m should do it.
How is the variable Isp on an aerospike any different than the variable Isp on a bell nozzle? The only major difference between the two is the slight dip in Isp that occurs in the wake closure regime. That shouldn't be that big of a challenge for a decent avionics package.

Have a look at this paper on Aerospikes from one of the earlier links.
NB avionics will not change shape of engine bell during flight.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=33757.0;attach=829470

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Calphor on 05/24/2015 05:05 AM
Between aerospikes variable ISP and composite construction this RLV looks viable all they need is a little R&D $$$. $500m should do it.
How is the variable Isp on an aerospike any different than the variable Isp on a bell nozzle? The only major difference between the two is the slight dip in Isp that occurs in the wake closure regime. That shouldn't be that big of a challenge for a decent avionics package.

Have a look at this paper on Aerospikes from one of the earlier links.
NB avionics will not change shape of engine bell during flight.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=33757.0;attach=829470

I understand the theory on aerospikes. I just don't see that it is a major issue with regards to the Firefly system. If anything the modular approach that Firefly is using should make things easier since it eliminates one of the biggest issues that the J2-T-250 had during the testing that occurred before the program was cancelled, which was the toroidal combustion chamber and the combustion instabilities that developed during ignition and were not easily damped. The "shape" of the plume in an aerospike doesn't affect vehicle performance, except in the region of wake closure with a truncated spike.

Bell nozzles are actually trickier to design since you have to balance flow separation at low altitudes (over expansion) with performance at high altitudes (under expansion) with the variables of combustion pressure and turbomachinery complexity. Beside, with an aerospike, especially in a first stage engine application, you tend to lose a good bit of the weight associated with the bell nozzle.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 05/24/2015 01:29 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216

ahhh, another paper rocket company.  Wished they had a few launches before bringing out the Firefly Gamma.  Credibility is everything.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 05/24/2015 03:29 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216

ahhh, another paper rocket company.  Wished they had a few launches before bringing out the Firefly Gamma.  Credibility is everything.
This maybe a PR strategy to help with raising finance. I would have more confidence as an investor if they showed working HW. Eg first test fire of an engine or part of an engine.

Rocketlab seems to be more focus. They only talk about the current version of Electron being constructed. A lot of there PR content contains existing HW eg electric turbo for working engine.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/24/2015 05:32 PM
Honestly, I find Firefly more credible because they have a plan for a higher revenue medium launch vehicle. There are starting to be lots of micro launch companies.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 05/24/2015 08:37 PM
Can anyone explain how Gamma works?

Is it a winged SSTO?  'cause that's quite a claim...

Are we missing throw-away boosters?   Does it ride on a different rocket?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/25/2015 01:25 AM
Can anyone explain how Gamma works?

Is it a winged SSTO?  'cause that's quite a claim...

Are we missing throw-away boosters?   Does it ride on a different rocket?
The nose is probably an expendable upper stage.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 05/25/2015 03:30 AM
Can anyone explain how Gamma works?

Is it a winged SSTO?  'cause that's quite a claim...

Are we missing throw-away boosters?   Does it ride on a different rocket?
The nose is probably an expendable upper stage.

Yes, that makes sense.  The Canards made it look very integral. 
The caption indeed says "reusable rocket-plane" - which is the first stage.

VTHL or HTHL?  Those canards might help flight before separation, when the nose is heavy (though they are not particularly large)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 05/25/2015 10:23 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216

Somebody *really* likes wings, I guess.

So what magical performance increase are going to introduce between Beta and Gamma that will allow them to move from a 3 (or 2.5) stage launch vehicle to an SSTO space plane? (or is gamma just a Beta boster with wings?)

And in the Alpha in 2 years, Beta in 4 years, and Gamma in 7 years? These guys make SpaceX look like conservative schedulers.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 05/25/2015 10:29 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216

Somebody *really* likes wings, I guess.

So what magical performance increase are going to introduce between Beta and Gamma that will allow them to move from a 3 (or 2.5) stage launch vehicle to an SSTO space plane? (or is gamma just a Beta boster with wings?)

And in the Alpha in 2 years, Beta in 4 years, and Gamma in 7 years? These guys make SpaceX look like conservative schedulers.

I really doubt Gamma is intended to be SSTO, though it's unclear what form they intend staging to take.  Maybe something strapped to the side?  Maybe the front portion is an upper stage?  Maybe an internal payload bay for the upper stage?

It's too bad all we have is a photo of a slide projected on a screen with the resolution too low to make out everything written on it, and we don't have a transcript of what was said in relation to the slide.

Or maybe that's good because it lets us go crazy speculating. :P
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: hernick on 05/25/2015 11:06 PM
It's too bad all we have is a photo of a slide projected on a screen with the resolution too low to make out everything written on it, and we don't have a transcript of what was said in relation to the slide.

Here's my reading of the slide:

2017
Firefly "Alpha"
Payload: 400kg
$1M production cost goal
Weekly launches

2019
Firefly "Beta"
Payload: 1000kg
Alpha upper stage
Re-usable strap-on boosters

2022
Firefly "Gamma"
Payload: 5000kg
Re-usable rocket plane
<2k$/kg payload [..hidden..]
Upgradeable[..hidden..]
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/25/2015 11:53 PM
Firefly Gamma is a reusable flyback rocket: https://twitter.com/marsbeyond/status/602008558834569216

Somebody *really* likes wings, I guess.

So what magical performance increase are going to introduce between Beta and Gamma that will allow them to move from a 3 (or 2.5) stage launch vehicle to an SSTO space plane? (or is gamma just a Beta boster with wings?)...
Neither. Space Plane does not imply SSTO. Gamma looks much larger in diameter (and longer) than Alpha. My guess is it's about 10 times the volume than Gamma, which fits in with the ~5 tons payload vs 400kg (considering when you're operating at very small scales, there's a big advantage in payload efficiency when you scale up) even taking into account recovery (presumably of the first stage).

Quote
And in the Alpha in 2 years, Beta in 4 years, and Gamma in 7 years? These guys make SpaceX look like conservative schedulers.
Remember they're also operating at a smaller scale. SpaceX was actually more ambitious at that time, hoping to bang out F1 then F5 soon after that, immediately followed by F9.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 05/26/2015 03:31 AM
All I can say is that I'm more accepting of a winged first stage than I am of wings that go to orbit.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 06/10/2015 09:10 PM
Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) tweeted at 8:27 AM on Thu, Jun 11, 2015:
Damphousse: begin hot fire tests of engine this summer at test site (which, he adds, comes complete with cows, “just like SpaceX.”)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Katana on 06/12/2015 05:33 AM
Honestly, I find Firefly more credible because they have a plan for a higher revenue medium launch vehicle. There are starting to be lots of micro launch companies.

Firefly alpha, 44.5kN per engine, 9+1, 400kg to LEO
Rlabs Electron, 22kN per engine, 9+1, 100kg to SSO (implies ~200kg to LEO)

2:1 size difference, not too difficult to scale if the initial version gets running.
Besides, SSO capabilities means better understanding of the market.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 06/23/2015 10:51 PM
 A number of engineers from Firefly have given an interview on the 'Orbital Mechanics' (http://www.theorbitalmechanics.com/show-notes/fireflyss) podcast (starting at about 39 minutes).
 Some highlights;
- They're working on a Kerolox version with helium pressurisation as a backup, most of the prior experience of the team is in kerolox
- The engine approaching hotfire tests is an engine 'very similar to' the FRE-1 upper-stage engine
- FRE-2 Aerospike now planned to use 12 combustion modules
- Individual thrust chambers on FRE-1 and FRE-2 are identical
- Both Alpha and Beta are planned as fully expendable
- Gamma is a concept, not under active development
- Gamma intended to use horizontal take-off and landing, both on runway, fairing is hinged and retained for aerodynamics
- Still considering launchsite, LC-39C is a possibility
- The Alpha design is still being heavily worked on, they haven't determined if electronics will be routed through tanks or through external raceway
- Horizontal integration of launcher+payload
- Work being done now is mainly preparation for engine tests 'this summer' and then pressure-testing a full-scale tank under cryo conditions 'within the next six months'
- First launch in 2017 is suborbital
- Manufacture and testing both planned for Briggs, Texas.
- Test site is 90% complete
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 06/24/2015 12:16 AM
Thanks for link Kryten, these Orbital Mechanics podcasts are great find.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Katana on 06/24/2015 12:30 AM
Boosters have same size and less engines compared to the core 1st stage.
So the boosters have longer working time than the core ? Or it have cross fed?
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5439a3d0e4b0dedc218f23b9/t/55897d1ae4b01bc9a6d6683c/1435073821067/?format=500w
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Skyrocket on 06/24/2015 06:39 AM
Boosters have same size and less engines compared to the core 1st stage.
So the boosters have longer working time than the core ? Or it have cross fed?
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5439a3d0e4b0dedc218f23b9/t/55897d1ae4b01bc9a6d6683c/1435073821067/?format=500w

The boosters obviously do not have the same size as the core.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 07/16/2015 03:41 PM
 Firefly have released (http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/firefly-space-systems-releases-payload-user-s-guide) the payload users guide for Alpha.
EDIT: Some interesting points;
- Alpha is now Kerolox with helium pressurisation, as was previously reported as their backup plan
- The first stage contains an IMU and flight computer-may show landing is being considered, but reusability not explicitly mentioned
- Launch site apparently still undecided, payload figures calculated for launch from equator
- Livestream during launch and HD footage of payload separation are both to be provided as standard to customers
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Mader Levap on 07/16/2015 05:58 PM
- Livestream during launch and HD footage of payload separation are both to be provided as standard to customers
It is not standard already?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 07/16/2015 09:51 PM
Firefly a developing a few new technologies, high pressure composite fuel tanks for pressure feed engine, aerospike, methane engine plus a new LV and facilities from scratch. Switching from methane to RP1 reduces the business risk from added development delays, especially as Firefly collectively as lot of engineering experience developing RP1 engines. This doesn't mean they have shelved the lower cost methane engine LV, just delayed it while they look after business.

Their SSO 500km price per kg ($8m for 200kg) is directly competitive with Rocketlab $4.9m for 110kg.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 07/16/2015 10:34 PM
Firefly a developing a few new technologies, high pressure composite fuel tanks for pressure feed engine, aerospike, methane engine plus a new LV and facilities from scratch. Switching from methane to RP1 reduces the business risk from added development delays, especially as Firefly collectively as lot of engineering experience developing RP1 engines. This doesn't mean they have shelved the lower cost methane engine LV, just delayed it while they look after business.

Their SSO 500km price per kg ($8m for 200kg) is directly competitive with Rocketlab $4.9m for 110kg.

some interesting times in the low end launch market
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: CameronD on 07/16/2015 11:14 PM
Firefly a developing a few new technologies, high pressure composite fuel tanks for pressure feed engine, aerospike, methane engine plus a new LV and facilities from scratch. Switching from methane to RP1 reduces the business risk from added development delays, especially as Firefly collectively as lot of engineering experience developing RP1 engines. This doesn't mean they have shelved the lower cost methane engine LV, just delayed it while they look after business.

Their SSO 500km price per kg ($8m for 200kg) is directly competitive with Rocketlab $4.9m for 110kg.

some interesting times in the low end launch market

It'd be more interesting times if they actually flew..


Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 07/17/2015 05:03 AM
Question about these carbon fiber body launch vehicles: how is RF handled on the vehicle? The payload section says that the payload RF systems will be shut off during ascent and turned on after fairing separation. How do they deal with the carbon fiber induced RF attenuation for the actual vehicle?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: mhlas7 on 08/07/2015 03:47 PM
Picture of what looks like an engine test stand via Firefly's facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/fireflyspace/photos/a.654927377930979.1073741827.565374443552940/858135667610148/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 08/10/2015 02:02 PM
Picture of what looks like an engine test stand via Firefly's facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/fireflyspace/photos/a.654927377930979.1073741827.565374443552940/858135667610148/

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 09/09/2015 02:28 PM
From the FireFly Facebook page:

Quote
Many members of Firefly's team celebrate the completion of construction at Test Stand 1.[/]
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 09/09/2015 03:03 PM
Quote
Firefly Space ‏@Firefly_Space  3m3 minutes ago
Firefly's Test Stand 1 is rated to 500,000 lbs of thrust.
FRE-1 is only 90,000lbf, they must have something bigger planned. Could be what's on the Beta boosters.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 09/10/2015 07:13 AM
Another image from their Facebook:

Quote
No fire just yet - Liquid Oxygen flowing at 500 psia through the engine main valve.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 09/10/2015 06:51 PM
Good news Firefly is no longer a power point rocket, it has actual operating hardware.

First engine test fire.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/09/10/firefly-conducts-engine-hot-fire/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 09/10/2015 07:11 PM
Here is a picture: (from FireFly)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Scylla on 09/10/2015 08:27 PM
First Rocket Engine Test a Success for Firefly Space Systems
http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/first-rocket-engine-test-a-success-for-firefly-space-systems

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE



First Rocket Engine Test a Success for Firefly Space Systems

CEDAR PARK, Texas, September 10, 2015

Firefly Space Systems, the Texas-based developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today that it has successfully tested its first rocket engine, Firefly Rocket Engine Research 1 (“FRE-R1”).

“The successful testing of our first engine represents a quantum step in the technical maturation of our company. We have demonstrated that our core engine design can reliably start, stop and operate at a steady state without combustion instabilities,” said Firefly Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic.

Firefly is developing one combustor design that will be utilized to power both stages of their small-sat launcher – “Firefly Alpha.” The Alpha upper stage will utilize an engine (FRE-1) with a single combustor, whereas the first stage engine (FRE-2) will use an array of twelve of the same combustors arranged in an annular aerospike configuration.

FRE-R1 is a propulsion pathfinder for both stages of Alpha. It operates using LOx/RP-1 propellants, but the basic combustor design can utilize either methane or RP-1 fuels. The upper stage variant of the engine (FRE-1) will produce 7,000 lbf thrust, and the first stage cluster used in FRE-2 will produce 125,000 lbf thrust.

The first test series successfully demonstrated startup, shutdown, and steady state combustion. The test also served to prove the complete functionality of Firefly’s new test site. Upcoming engine tests will emphasize performance tuning and longer duration “mission duty cycle” runs. The first hot-fire tests of the FRE-2 aerospike engine are expected to take place in early 2016.

“In only fifteen months, we have built our Texas team, constructed state-of-the-art engineering and test facilities, designed a complete rocket (Alpha) to PDR level, and built and tested key vehicle technologies, such as the FRE-R1 engine,” added Markusic.

“I’m incredibly proud of the innovative and hard-driving spirit of the Firefly team. They are smart, hard-working and building momentum in hardware development, which will carry Firefly to space in short order.”

ABOUT FIREFLY SPACE SYSTEMS

Firefly is a small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX which was created to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option. The Firefly team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at NASA and various New Space companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Simplified and optimized for least cost, and utilizing innovations such as a rethought engine design, Firefly has positioned itself to be the technological and cost effective solution leader for traditional manufacturers of small satellites for government agencies, earth observation, and constellation
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 09/11/2015 07:18 AM
I love the way engine firing make the logo on the wall all glowy :D Nice touch...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Garrett on 09/11/2015 07:35 AM
Here is a picture: (from FireFly)
And a higher res version from their Twitter post
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jarnis on 09/11/2015 11:35 AM
First test and no RUD. Congratulations!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: CameronD on 09/14/2015 10:56 PM
First test and no RUD. Congratulations!

On that note: I don't see much in the way of blast containment around the engine itself.  They must be either (a) mighty confident they'll never have a problem or (b) be in the middle of absolutely nowhere..
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 09/14/2015 11:09 PM
First test and no RUD. Congratulations!

On that note: I don't see much in the way of blast containment around the engine itself.  They must be either (a) mighty confident they'll never have a problem or (b) be in the middle of absolutely nowhere..


Presser said 'remote site 50 miles north of Austin' which puts its somewhere in Fort Hood which i guess has a military artillery test range.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 09/14/2015 11:31 PM
It's nice to see they've been able to reach this point.  They're far ahead of the vast majority of space start-ups.

I think it's clear that they have the technical capabilities to very likely successfully reach orbit eventually, if their funding holds out.  They must have fairly respectable funding to have gotten to this point and the headcount the picture demonstrates.  They'll need a lot more to reach operational status.

Their business case still seems like their biggest problem to me.  They can be great people and build an organization that delivers what it promises technically, but if the market isn't there to support it, the company can't succeed.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Helodriver on 10/14/2015 07:12 PM
Looks like the newly built LC-39C at Kennedy Space Center is getting its first tenant. Makes sense, its a perfect fit.

From Firefly's Twitter today :

"We are planning our sub-orbital test flight program from @NASAKennedy (likely Launch Complex 39C) thanks to the great work of @SpaceFlorida"


Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: sghill on 10/14/2015 07:38 PM
Here's the FL Today story from James Dean:
http://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2015/10/14/ksc-awards-help-develop-small-satellite-launchers/73916514/

One of three companies to win contracts to launch small satellites from NASA plans to perform test flights from Kennedy Space Center next year.

Texas-based Firefly Space Systems' 77-foot-tall Alpha rocket could be the first to use KSC's new pad 39C for the suborbital test flights.

"At that time we’ll be proud to call ourselves Floridians, and signal to the world that the most exciting and innovative technologies in space access are still happening right here on the Space Coast," said Maureen Gannon, Firefly's vice president for business development.

By March 2018, the company plans to launch very small spacecraft known as CubeSats to orbit for NASA, from a launch site to be determined depending on the spacecraft selected for the $5.5 million mission.

The demonstration mission is one of several that KSC's Launch Services Program has bought to help enable a new class of small rockets designed to launch small satellites as soon as next year.

NASA also has bought a launch on Rocket Lab USA's Electron rocket for $7 million, and on Virgin Galactic's air-launched LauncherOne rocket for $4.7 million. Those companies could also potentially launch from the Space Coast.

The three companies were selected under NASA's new Venture Class Launch Services initiative to launch bunches of 15 to 30 CubeSats, which can measure as little as 4 inches on a side, on demonstration missions by early 2018.

To date, those small spacecraft have been force to fly in "coach class," NASA said, by hitching rides as secondary payloads on big rockets that might cost $100 million or more.

The new rockets, none of which have flown yet, seek to offer low-cost alternatives that can deliver the spacecraft to orbits they want on schedules they want.

"We can basically say now we are riding first-class," said Garrett Skrobot, the Launch Services Program's mission lead for the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, program.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 10/14/2015 08:02 PM
"We can basically say now we are riding first-class," said Garrett Skrobot, the Launch Services Program's mission lead for the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, program.

In other words, paying more to get to the same place.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 10/14/2015 08:07 PM
"We can basically say now we are riding first-class," said Garrett Skrobot, the Launch Services Program's mission lead for the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, program.

In other words, paying more to get to the same place.

Which is a completely reasonable thing to do for certain payloads. Otherwise USPS would have put DHL out of business a long time ago.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: catdlr on 10/14/2015 11:22 PM
Firefly Space Systems Selected for Venture Class Launches

Published on Oct 14, 2015
Firefly Space Systems, based in Cedar Park, Texas, is developing its Alpha vehicle that uses an aerospike first stage engine powered by refined kerosene and liquid oxygen. The rocket is tailored to payloads weighing about 880 pounds, which means it could launch a variety of CubeSats all at once or a single small satellite or a mix.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q422ZkLmcZo
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Glom on 10/14/2015 11:36 PM
Impressive how quickly they've managed to progress.

Their CFO, Michael Blum, he wouldn't also happen to be moonlighting as a petrophysicist in Basra, would he?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: to_boldly_go on 10/16/2015 04:12 PM
Any word on when or if they will open a FL based location to support LC-39C operations?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: fthomassy on 10/16/2015 04:58 PM
Tom Markusic (Firelfy CEO) will be participating in a session on "How To Settle Mars?".  It is tomorrow (17 Oct) at the New Worlds 2015 (http://newworlds.space/) conference in Austin.  Use promotion code "texas2015" and get half off registration.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 10/16/2015 05:28 PM
"We can basically say now we are riding first-class," said Garrett Skrobot, the Launch Services Program's mission lead for the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, program.

In other words, paying more to get to the same place.
Ride share is like catching a bus while dedicated LV is like a taxi. The taxi costs more but delivers you door to door when you want.
The bus doesn't care if you are on board when it leaves. Once dropped off you will need to walk (propulsion) to your destination.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 10/19/2015 01:23 PM
Firefly the uber of space
http://finance.yahoo.com/video/firefly-co-founder-firefly-uber-121820241.html
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ClaytonBirchenough on 10/19/2015 01:36 PM
Firefly the uber of space
http://finance.yahoo.com/video/firefly-co-founder-firefly-uber-121820241.html

Interesting comparison, but for me it falls apart when you realize that Uber has transported people and Firefly still hasn't "transported" anything...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 10/19/2015 08:28 PM
Firefly the uber of space
http://finance.yahoo.com/video/firefly-co-founder-firefly-uber-121820241.html

Interesting comparison, but for me it falls apart when you realize that Uber has transported people and Firefly still hasn't "transported" anything...

keep in mind finance.yahoo, no bucks no buck rogers.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 10/20/2015 12:38 AM
Has FFSS published any information on how they will pursue re-usability of its launch vehicles other than the Gamma lifting body design?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 10/21/2015 06:35 PM
"We can basically say now we are riding first-class," said Garrett Skrobot, the Launch Services Program's mission lead for the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, program.

In other words, paying more to get to the same place.
Ride share is like catching a bus while dedicated LV is like a taxi. The taxi costs more but delivers you door to door when you want.
The bus doesn't care if you are on board when it leaves. Once dropped off you will need to walk (propulsion) to your destination.

Small satellites don't generally all have their own individual houses they need to go to.  There are a small number of orbits that cover the vast majority of places small satellites need to end up.

And the bus/taxi analogy also breaks down when you consider that the cost of either is a small portion of what most people spend each year.  For most small satellite makers $5 million is a huge portion of their budget, if not more than the budget.

The promise of small satellites is that they can cost far less then $1 million each.  That makes no sense if they have to pay $5 million for a launch.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 10/21/2015 07:20 PM
Small satellites don't generally all have their own individual houses they need to go to.  There are a small number of orbits that cover the vast majority of places small satellites need to end up.

And the bus/taxi analogy also breaks down when you consider that the cost of either is a small portion of what most people spend each year.  For most small satellite makers $5 million is a huge portion of their budget, if not more than the budget.

The promise of small satellites is that they can cost far less then $1 million each.  That makes no sense if they have to pay $5 million for a launch.
That has been addressed several times in this and other threads. All the current frontrunners in this segment plan dedicated rideshare launches, not one launch per sat.
Which is a strong indication that the market doesnt care so much about custom orbits, but much more about responsive launch. Again, cubesat payloads can be iterated in months, but booking launches for them takes years right now.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: edkyle99 on 10/22/2015 03:20 AM
I've been trying to confirm this, but I think Firefly is moving faster from startup to bench test than SpaceX. 

I cannot find any info on the first SpaceX bench test of an engine.  Obviously SpaceX had a lot going on in the early days that was not really in the news (or on NSF).  Thought they were testing in Mojave before they made it to Kwajalein.
My notes say that SpaceX was formed in June 2002 and that the first Merlin testing took place at McGregor in March 2003.  I'm not sure what that testing entailed exactly.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: billh on 10/22/2015 05:42 PM
There was a horizontal test stand and I recall seeing pictures of Merlin B (ablative) being tested on it. I can't find it on the SpaceX website any more. No Falcon 1 pictures either.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 10/22/2015 06:47 PM
There was a horizontal test stand and I recall seeing pictures of Merlin B (ablative) being tested on it. I can't find it on the SpaceX website any more. No Falcon 1 pictures either.
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=11000

EDIT: also, LOL
http://spacenews.com/web-entrepreneur-eyes-small-launcher-market/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: hop on 10/22/2015 08:14 PM
My notes say that SpaceX was formed in June 2002 and that the first Merlin testing took place at McGregor in March 2003.  I'm not sure what that testing entailed exactly.
In the context of Firefly and others small launcher startups claimed launch schedules, it may be worth noting SpaceX was predicting their first launch around the end of 2003 at that point.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 10/23/2015 06:07 AM
I've been trying to confirm this, but I think Firefly is moving faster from startup to bench test than SpaceX. 

I'd be cautious in congratulating Firefly for their pace too soon. Their prototype engine they have tested is far smaller than for example the Merlin is/was. And engine development time/expense seems to scale up with engine size. (perhaps even exponentially?) One way to view the Firefly Alpha is like a F9 scaled down to something F1 sized, so that tells you something about the engine difference.

But I'm certainly looking forward to seeing a full engine cluster of 12 engines firing on a test stand.  8)

BTW, for those curious - This is where their test area is: (google maps)
https://www.google.com/maps/@30.8791447,-97.9243948,943m/data=!3m1!1e3
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Bob Shaw on 10/23/2015 10:21 PM
Yea it is pretty hard to find any news about SpaceX in the early days (2003).  Their website was scanned on the wayback machine.  Not a lot of content back then, just a single graphic and no public releases of news. 

Simply think at the early stages of a new business, Firefly SS is moving at a good clip.  Comparatively SpaceX must have been really going fast early on. 

I wish the NSF website had a way to search for the first SpaceX thread just for historical news sake.  I'd be interested if anything was being posted about bench tests and try to see more about the pace of development.  I certainly remember watching the first Falcon I launch.

Elon Musk took the Falcon 1 to Washington, back in the day. He had it parked on a trailer outside some major governmental institution or other, and IIRC was broadly ignored. Somewhere, I have the photographs... ...Google will have them, too!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 10/24/2015 06:01 AM
To focus the thread back on Firefly, here are some hi-res images of their test facility that I got off twitter (my apologies if these have already been linked to in this thread):

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 10/24/2015 06:06 AM
Here is also a schematic view of the Alpha rocket (from the latest payload users giude), showing the latest view of the changes (after change to RP-1):
 - helium bottles now added (a single central mounted one for the upper stage?)
 - common bulkhead tanks for both stages
 - upper stage still not the same diameter as the lower stage
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 10/24/2015 09:17 AM
Firefly have a reusable booster as along term goal. It may be possible to do it with Alpha by using mid air recovery. Booster would still need to do controlled reentry but parachutes and MAR with helicopter would solve complex landing part. Downrange recovery could use any small ship with helipad. Payload penalty should be less than F9's 15% as there is no legs or fuel required for landing phase.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: billh on 10/24/2015 05:52 PM
There was a horizontal test stand and I recall seeing pictures of Merlin B (ablative) being tested on it. I can't find it on the SpaceX website any more. No Falcon 1 pictures either.
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=11000

EDIT: also, LOL
http://spacenews.com/web-entrepreneur-eyes-small-launcher-market/
That SpaceNews article is priceless. Thanks.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: sdsds on 10/25/2015 02:45 AM
I was not following SpaceX in 2003, but the history there probably provides a pretty good model for what Firefly is doing now. Does anyone happen to have a copy of the paper presented at the 17th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, hosted by Utah State University Aug. 11-14, 2003?

Technical Session I:
"New Ways to Orbit," by Elon Musk, SpaceX Chairman and CEO, Dr. Hans Koeningsmann, Vice President of Avionics and Systems, and Gwynne Gurevich, Vice President of Business Development.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: mhlas7 on 10/25/2015 03:35 AM
I was not following SpaceX in 2003, but the history there probably provides a pretty good model for what Firefly is doing now. Does anyone happen to have a copy of the paper presented at the 17th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, hosted by Utah State University Aug. 11-14, 2003?

Technical Session I:
"New Ways to Orbit," by Elon Musk, SpaceX Chairman and CEO, Dr. Hans Koeningsmann, Vice President of Avionics and Systems, and Gwynne Gurevich, Vice President of Business Development.

It is archived on the Utah State University website: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/smallsat/2003/All2003/3/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 10/25/2015 04:22 AM
Small satellites don't generally all have their own individual houses they need to go to.  There are a small number of orbits that cover the vast majority of places small satellites need to end up.

And the bus/taxi analogy also breaks down when you consider that the cost of either is a small portion of what most people spend each year.  For most small satellite makers $5 million is a huge portion of their budget, if not more than the budget.

The promise of small satellites is that they can cost far less then $1 million each.  That makes no sense if they have to pay $5 million for a launch.
That has been addressed several times in this and other threads. All the current frontrunners in this segment plan dedicated rideshare launches, not one launch per sat.
Which is a strong indication that the market doesnt care so much about custom orbits, but much more about responsive launch. Again, cubesat payloads can be iterated in months, but booking launches for them takes years right now.

Exactly.  Which means that as the market for smallsats grows, those rideshare flights will move from rideshares on small launchers to rideshares on big launchers.  If there's a dedicated rideshare flight on a Falcon 9 every three months, that pretty much kills the small launcher rideshare business.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: sdsds on 10/25/2015 04:24 AM
So on Aug 11 2003 SpaceX was targeting a Jan 22 2004 launch date (i.e. launch in 164 days). The first lift-off was instead Mar 24 2006, yielding a "time dilation factor" of 5.8.

Suppose Firefly has a time dilation factor half that of the early SpaceX, i.e. 2.9. Then a July 1 2017 target would imply an actual launch in September of 2020.

I take it the general thinking is they will do much better than that?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Mader Levap on 11/10/2015 10:35 AM
I take it the general thinking is they will do much better than that?
Better than initial SpaceX time dilation? Yes. Launching on time? Hell no.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 11/10/2015 02:36 PM
That has been addressed several times in this and other threads. All the current frontrunners in this segment plan dedicated rideshare launches, not one launch per sat.
Which is a strong indication that the market doesnt care so much about custom orbits, but much more about responsive launch. Again, cubesat payloads can be iterated in months, but booking launches for them takes years right now.

Exactly.  Which means that as the market for smallsats grows, those rideshare flights will move from rideshares on small launchers to rideshares on big launchers.  If there's a dedicated rideshare flight on a Falcon 9 every three months, that pretty much kills the small launcher rideshare business.

I dont see how that follows at all. SpaceX manifest is booked for years in advance, and everything keeps constantly slipping to the right. The first ever dedicated smallsat launcher was booked at least two years in advance. The point of responsive launch is that you can fly and re-fly with short notice.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Katana on 11/10/2015 04:22 PM
A F9 dedicated for cubesat rideshare, if fully utilized, could carry ~3000 cubesats to orbit, scattering them into glorious nebula moving in evening sky.

One F9 per 3 month, 12,000 cubesats per year?

Too many to fit in VHF/UHF amateur band radio frequencies used for cubesats now. May require develop of Kxxx band transceivers and frequency bidding cost, or laser communication?

At least for recent technology and market of cubesats, dedicated small launchers have unique niche markets free from mainstream large launchers.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: fthomassy on 11/25/2015 07:00 PM
http://spacenews.com/building-the-model-t-of-rockets/ (http://spacenews.com/building-the-model-t-of-rockets/)
Quote
By 2017, Firefly plans to begin conducting suborbital launches.
Quote
Firefly plans to conduct is first orbital flight in March 2018, an ambitious goal for a company established in 2014.
Seems to confirm previous news.  Seems to have fresh quotes from CEO and VP-BD.  I'm not spotting anything except 61 employees now and 150 when in production.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Steven Pietrobon on 11/26/2015 08:09 AM
Quote
Firefly’s initial launch vehicle, Firefly Alpha, an all-composite rocket with a pressure-fed aerospike engine, is designed to send 400 kilogram payloads into low Earth orbit or 200 kilograms into sun-synchronous orbit for $8 million.

That's $20K/kg for LEO and $40K/kg for SS. That's pretty expensive.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 11/26/2015 06:35 PM
Pretty inexpensive compared to the likes of Pegasus, around $100,000/kg.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Steven Pietrobon on 11/27/2015 12:56 AM
Pegasus also started out cheap, at $5M to $10M for the same payload capability as Firefly Alpha. That was in 1988, so about twice that amount now. If Pegasus is $100K/kg now, that's about the same price as Scout G1 was in 1988 (adjusted for inflation)! Maybe NASA should have just stuck with Scout. :-)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: MP99 on 11/28/2015 12:23 PM
A F9 dedicated for cubesat rideshare, if fully utilized, could carry ~3000 cubesats to orbit, scattering them into glorious nebula moving in evening sky.

One F9 per 3 month, 12,000 cubesats per year?

Too many to fit in VHF/UHF amateur band radio frequencies used for cubesats now. May require develop of Kxxx band transceivers and frequency bidding cost, or laser communication?

At least for recent technology and market of cubesats, dedicated small launchers have unique niche markets free from mainstream large launchers.
The only way that would make sense if SpaceX developed recovery of the upper stage, which would only make sense if their order book had a lot more LEO missions. Perhaps for delivery of their CommSat constellation?

That would leave Firefly with time to get flying.

Cheers, Martin
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 12/15/2015 08:05 PM
SpaceNews podcast with FireFly's co-founder PJ King

http://spacenews.com/spacegeeks-the-biggest-little-rocket-house-in-texas/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 12/17/2015 01:43 AM
Not surprising that Virgin are gunning for Markusic after he left them and setup a Firefly in direct competition to LauncherOne. This has only gone public after King (from Firefly) filed this action.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/12/16/firefly-board-member-sues-stop-virgin-galactic-fishing-expedition/


A member of Firefly Space Systems board of directors has filed suit in Los Angeles to overturn an arbitrator’s judgment that he turn documents over to rival Virgin Galactic in a dispute between Virgin and its former vice president of propulsion.

Patrick Joseph (P.J.) King filed the action on Tuesday in a case involving Tom Markusic, who left Virgin Galactic to form Firely with King in early 2014.


“After Dr. Markusic left Galactic, [Richard] Branson sued his ex-employee the the Arbitration, falsely accusing of Dr. Markusic of breaking his former employment agreement by ‘stealing’ what apparently is nothing more than standard open-source technical information which is available in the academic literature, that Galactic claims are someone ‘trade secrets'”, the suit reads. - See more at: http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/12/16/firefly-board-member-sues-stop-virgin-galactic-fishing-expedition/#sthash.coiMYICj.dpuf
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: parabolicarc on 12/18/2015 05:12 PM
Here's a full description of the information Virgin Galactic has gotten the arbitrator to subpoena from Firefly.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/12/17/heres-information-virgin-galactic-sought-firefly/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: notsorandom on 12/18/2015 06:01 PM
Here's a full description of the information Virgin Galactic has gotten the arbitrator to subpoena from Firefly.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/12/17/heres-information-virgin-galactic-sought-firefly/
Wow what did they not ask for? It is pretty clear that getting this amount and level of information from a competitor puts them at a severe competitive disadvantage. I wonder what effect this will have on the industry as a whole. A fair number of people move from one company to another. Virgin Galactic apparently has a pretty all encompassing NDA and the will to use it as a punitive device. If you are another rocket company would you hire someone who at one point worked at VG and risk VG coming after all your proprietary information? If you are a rocket engineer would you take a job at VG and risk not being able to find a job should you leave? Perhaps SpaceX should take a look at VG and see if Markusic used any proprietary technology in their Newton engines.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 12/18/2015 10:26 PM
Here's a full description of the information Virgin Galactic has gotten the arbitrator to subpoena from Firefly.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/12/17/heres-information-virgin-galactic-sought-firefly/
Wow what did they not ask for? It is pretty clear that getting this amount and level of information from a competitor puts them at a severe competitive disadvantage. I wonder what effect this will have on the industry as a whole. A fair number of people move from one company to another. Virgin Galactic apparently has a pretty all encompassing NDA and the will to use it as a punitive device. If you are another rocket company would you hire someone who at one point worked at VG and risk VG coming after all your proprietary information? If you are a rocket engineer would you take a job at VG and risk not being able to find a job should you leave? Perhaps SpaceX should take a look at VG and see if Markusic used any proprietary technology in their Newton engines.

way past any kind of employment contract or NDA.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NovaSilisko on 12/18/2015 10:29 PM
Ah yes, photo.JPG, a title full of mystery and intrigue, and thumbs.db the most important and secretive file any company can hold...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: A_M_Swallow on 12/19/2015 12:23 AM
This does sound like vexatious litigation designed to harass and spy on a new competitor. The law is different in each state.

Here is a paper about Connecticut law.
https://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/rpt/2008-R-0101.htm (https://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/rpt/2008-R-0101.htm)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 02/01/2016 05:10 PM
Firefly talks about payload to an equatorial orbit, but how does the payload get into equatorial orbit - is there a launch site near the Equator?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 02/02/2016 05:24 AM
A F9 dedicated for cubesat rideshare, if fully utilized, could carry ~3000 cubesats to orbit, scattering them into glorious nebula moving in evening sky.

One F9 per 3 month, 12,000 cubesats per year?

Too many to fit in VHF/UHF amateur band radio frequencies used for cubesats now. May require develop of Kxxx band transceivers and frequency bidding cost, or laser communication?

At least for recent technology and market of cubesats, dedicated small launchers have unique niche markets free from mainstream large launchers.

This ignores the reality of the CubeSAT market. Not all CubeSAT developers want to fly into the same orbit or the same altitude.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 02/03/2016 05:34 PM
Well, let me try my question this way: where is this company going to launch from?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 02/03/2016 05:46 PM
Well, let me try my question this way: where is this company going to launch from?


Don't think I've heard yet, they seem to be working on the launcher but do have that legal matter to get out of the way first.


Some small updates on the Firefly "vegas' court

01/29/2016           CANCELED   Motion to Compel  (9:30 AM) (Judicial Officer Bulla, Bonnie)
02/03/2016           Motion for Discovery  (9:30 AM) (Judicial Officer Bulla, Bonnie)
Plaintiff's Motion, on Order Shortening Time, to Conduct Early Discovery Pursuant to NRCP 26(a) and to Set Hearing on Virgin Galactic, LLC's Motion to Enforce Foreign Subpoena
02/23/2016           Motion to Dismiss  (8:30 AM) (Judicial Officer Cadish, Elissa F.)
Defendant Michael Blum's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Virgin Galactic, LLC's Complaint


Edit: moved materials to the proper thread
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 02/03/2016 07:50 PM
Well, let me try my question this way: where is this company going to launch from?


Don't think I've heard yet, they seem to be working on the launcher but do have that legal matter to get out of the way first.

I am not an attorney, but I play one in real life. Let me provide a free opinion of what I have seen in the news about this case:

First off, Virgin Galactic is not suing Firefly itself, and as far as I can tell, they are not suing Markusic either. They are suing the outside investor to comply with an arbitrator's request for documents from the outside investor. In any case, there is no lawsuit against Markusic, there is an arbitration case. The reason for this is that Markusic was probably working under contract with VG, and that contract had an arbitration clause. So, the worst case is that Markusic loses the arbitration case and is fined by the arbitrator personally. I do not believe that the arbitrator has the power to shut down Firefly; more to the point, if the fine is large, the only way that Markusic could probably pay is from profits from Firefly.

But, let's go through that worst case scenario: the arbitrator rules that Markusic owes $10 million to VG. Markusic can't pay. In that case, VG seeks a judgment against Markusic.  That is another case (enforcement of the arbitrator's ruling). So, then VG has to enforce the judgment, again, another legal battle. Markusic finally ends up in a debtor's exam, which reveals he can't pay the judgment, and VG can seize some of his assets. Presumably, Markusic has a minority holding in Firefly and so worst case, VG could either seize his shares or if Firefly is a Texas LLC, maybe foreclose on his holdings or have a charging order against his interest (depending on how Texas law works).  Again, worst case, all Markusic makes off Firefly is his salary, which also may be garnished by VG.  However, holding a minority share in a company doesn't give VG the power to stop Firefly. It might give VG leverage to buy out the other shareholders, but that would take a lot of cash.

This worst case scenario is intended to show that the VG action against Markusic by itself is not going to stop Firefly. What would stop Firefly is a legal injunction issued by a judge, but there is no publicly know legal action along those lines.

One way to resolve all of this would be for some Firefly derivative to serve as Launcher Two.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 02/05/2016 12:33 AM
The obvious market for a  Falcon 1 class launcher today passes through Stratolaunch.

Please don't run us through the 3 percent of orbital velocity issue, you would be missing the point.

Stratolauncher gives a Falcon 1 launch vehicle some additional performance, not just from the extra velocity and not just from the altitude, but also from allowing use of higher efficiency nozzles for greater ISP. But that is not the win.

The win is that such a combination would allow virtually instant replacement of failed communications satellites. Providing an in-plane in-slot replacement quickly for Iridium or Globalstar or SkyBox or any smaller satellite in LEO that is part of an ordered group is a big deal. Yes, Launcher One is coming on line, but it is much less capable than an airlaunched Falcon 1 class vehicle, and may only be able to handle Orbcomm replacements.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 03/07/2016 09:52 PM
The obvious market for a  Falcon 1 class launcher today passes through Stratolaunch.

Please don't run us through the 3 percent of orbital velocity issue, you would be missing the point.

Stratolauncher gives a Falcon 1 launch vehicle some additional performance, not just from the extra velocity and not just from the altitude, but also from allowing use of higher efficiency nozzles for greater ISP. But that is not the win.

The win is that such a combination would allow virtually instant replacement of failed communications satellites. Providing an in-plane in-slot replacement quickly for Iridium or Globalstar or SkyBox or any smaller satellite in LEO that is part of an ordered group is a big deal. Yes, Launcher One is coming on line, but it is much less capable than an airlaunched Falcon 1 class vehicle, and may only be able to handle Orbcomm replacements.

It's cheaper to just launch a spare or two into each orbital plane while launching the constellation on a larger launcher with multi-satellite launches.  For replacing the spares, there's no big rush, so no win for air launch over ground launch.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Danderman on 03/07/2016 11:13 PM
Murphy's Law tells us that the number of failures in a plane is proportional to the number of spares, ie if you have 2 spares, you will have 3 failures.  Or the reverse, ie you will never have a failure.

If you think about it, a spare strategy using Air Launch and spares on the ground is actually more cost effective than filling your planes with spares when you don't know which satellites are going to fail.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 03/07/2016 11:22 PM
Murphy's Law tells us that the number of failures in a plane is proportional to the number of spares, ie if you have 2 spares, you will have 3 failures.  Or the reverse, ie you will never have a failure.

If you think about it, a spare strategy using Air Launch and spares on the ground is actually more cost effective than filling your planes with spares when you don't know which satellites are going to fail.

Iridium, Globalstar, and GPS use on-orbit spares and I don't remember them ever having coverage gaps because of unlucky failures.  Globalstar had coverage issues with its first-generation constellation just because its satellites had a design flaw that made them likely to die young, but that's different from not having spares in the right planes.

Future constellations are expected to have many more, smaller birds, so there will be more in each plane and the chances of all the failures hitting a particular plane will be even less.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 03/07/2016 11:24 PM
Looking back through the thread I don't see this press release mentioned:

http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/nasa-awards-usd5.5m-venture-class-launch-services-contract-to-firefly

Quote
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CEDAR PARK, Texas, October 14, 2015

Demonstration CubeSat launch set for early 2018

Firefly Space Systems, Inc., a New Space leader in the development of dedicated small satellite launch vehicles has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct a demonstration CubeSat launch by March 2018. The Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract to Firefly is valued at $5.5M.

Mark Wiese, chief of the Flight Projects Office for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center, described VCLS contracts as representing “NASA’s investment in the future of the commercial launch industry for SmallSats.”

Since there hasn’t been a dedicated launcher available, CubeSats have flown into orbit as auxiliary payloads that are released after the booster has achieved the primary mission. They have also been sprung into the orbital void from canisters aboard the International Space Station to conduct research missions. In both cases though, the CubeSats are at the mercy of the primary payload and the orbit it must fly in.

“The CubeSat and small satellite engineers and scientists are coming up with missions that justify flying unique orbits and at altitudes that are not available if we only fly as secondary payloads,” said Garrett Skrobot, lead for the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission for LSP. “These are still experimental satellites, but the technology they are employing is mature enough to use in these new ways.”

That’s where Firefly and its family of launch vehicles comes in. Since its inception, Firefly’s mission has been to dramatically reduce the cost of commercial launch services for small satellites and science missions across the entire sub-1 metric ton payload segment. The company is focusing on the development of low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market. Firefly Alpha, the company’s first rocket, will be capable of lifting 400kg to a 400km equatorial orbit or 200kg to a 500km Sun-synchronous orbit

“Being recognized by NASA with a VCLS contract is a tremendous honor for the Firefly team. We have worked tirelessly during the last 18 months to develop Firefly Alpha, a vehicle that will be different from anything that has come before it. NASA’s vote of confidence in our technology and team is a significant boost to our efforts of ‘Making Space For Everyone’” said Dr. Thomas Markusic, Firefly’s CEO.

Added Maureen Gannon, Firefly’s Vice President of Business Development: “We are greatly encouraged knowing that NASA shares our industry’s vision for low-cost boosters to enable ever more exciting missions in exploration, science and education.”

I remember talking about it, but I guess it wasn't on this thread. Anyway, it's good to preserve press releases in the thread as sometimes they just evaporate.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 03/08/2016 07:46 AM
Firefly dropped a groupshot on social media:
Quote
Over 100 Fireflies and counting. Welcome to all of our new teammates as we join forces to 'Make Space For Everyone'.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 05/27/2016 10:19 PM
During the SpaceX Thaicom 8 mission Firefly posted a status from their own MCC, first images of that I think :) Needs some computers though ;)

Quote
Cheering for our friends @SpaceX from Firefly's own MCC in Cedar Park.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 06/03/2016 06:26 AM
Just to be sure:
https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/736325648931688449
Quote
WE ARE HIRING! Since Jan 1, we have hired 79 folks. Firefly staff now totals over 140 people. Need to add >60 more before year end.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: AncientU on 06/03/2016 03:59 PM
Just to be sure:
https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/736325648931688449
Quote
WE ARE HIRING! Since Jan 1, we have hired 79 folks. Firefly staff now totals over 140 people. Need to add >60 more before year end.

That would be 230% growth in one year.
Yeah!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 06/03/2016 04:25 PM
That would be 230% growth in one year.
Yeah!
Big teams can do big things. Yeah indeed
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 06/03/2016 04:46 PM
I know of a few XCOR staff looking for new job.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 06/10/2016 01:35 PM
Quote
Firefly Space ‏@Firefly_Space 46s46 seconds ago

The 1st of 12 engines has been mounted and tested on our aerospike live ring.

Sexy!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 06/10/2016 02:08 PM
I'm skeptical that aero spikes are worth the hastle, but it sure will look awesome.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: whitelancer64 on 06/10/2016 02:38 PM
I'm skeptical that aero spikes are worth the hastle, but it sure will look awesome.

Performance is improved, though by exactly how much depends on the design. I'm not sure if Firefly has said how much of a performance boost is gained with the aerospike compared to if the aerospike were removed from the design.

I'll ask on Twitter, who knows if they'll respond, though.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: jongoff on 06/10/2016 03:08 PM
I'm skeptical that aero spikes are worth the hastle, but it sure will look awesome.

Performance is improved, though by exactly how much depends on the design. I'm not sure if Firefly has said how much of a performance boost is gained with the aerospike compared to if the aerospike were removed from the design.

I'll ask on Twitter, who knows if they'll respond, though.

I've always wondered about this. Because in order to do an aerospike you pretty much have to use an open cycle of some form (gas generator, etc) because you need bleed gas to let you truncate the spike. But that bleed gas is costing you performance vs going with a closed cycle like expander cycle or staged combustion. You do get an altitude compensation benefit, but you're starting off at a disadvantage in Isp at any given altitude due to the open cycle losses.

Personally, I'd like to see a staged combustion or expander cycle engine using thrust augmented nozzles to get both the T/W ratio boost, and some level of altitude compensation.

But I'm glad someone may actually fly an aerospike, so we can get real data on how it performs in practice vs theory.

~Jon
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: baldusi on 06/10/2016 03:18 PM
I sure hope they are successful and do a second vehicle. If they stick to aerospike that would tell something.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 06/10/2016 03:47 PM
I'm skeptical that aero spikes are worth the hastle, but it sure will look awesome.

Performance is improved, though by exactly how much depends on the design. I'm not sure if Firefly has said how much of a performance boost is gained with the aerospike compared to if the aerospike were removed from the design.

I'll ask on Twitter, who knows if they'll respond, though.

I've always wondered about this. Because in order to do an aerospike you pretty much have to use an open cycle of some form (gas generator, etc) because you need bleed gas to let you truncate the spike. But that bleed gas is costing you performance vs going with a closed cycle like expander cycle or staged combustion. You do get an altitude compensation benefit, but you're starting off at a disadvantage in Isp at any given altitude due to the open cycle losses.

Personally, I'd like to see a staged combustion or expander cycle engine using thrust augmented nozzles to get both the T/W ratio boost, and some level of altitude compensation.

But I'm glad someone may actually fly an aerospike, so we can get real data on how it performs in practice vs theory.

~Jon
You don't necessarily need bleed air. You can just accept the performance disadvantage of a truncated spike or don't truncate the spike as much.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 06/10/2016 05:56 PM
Firefly are not going down a dead end path, if aerospike configuration doesn't work as expected on test stand, they can still build conventional multi engine LV using engines they have.
Performance may not be great but at least it will be creating revenue which is critical thing at this stage Firefly development.



Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: whitelancer64 on 06/10/2016 07:31 PM
Firefly are not going down a dead end path, if aerospike configuration doesn't work as expected on test stand, they can still build conventional multi engine LV using engines they have.
Performance may not be great but at least it will be creating revenue which is critical thing at this stage Firefly development.

Firefly Alpha is pretty small. 76.5 ft. (23.3 m) tall and 6 ft. (1.8 m) in diameter. If the aerospike doesn't work the way they think it will, it probably won't be able to make orbit. But aerospikes in general are pretty well understood, and they have done years of work on it already. I doubt that is something they are worried about.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 06/10/2016 08:28 PM
I always thought that aerospikes would be more relevant to SSTOs than to TSTOs.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 06/10/2016 09:19 PM
I posted this on Reddit, but I'll post here anyways. It looks like they are film cooling their combustor. Notice the bleed off from the main fuel inlet line? They probably won't be doing regen cooling as the pressure drop would be something to avoid; and most of the fuel is going straight to the injector manifold. They seem to be film cooling at both just downstream the injector face and at the converging section of the engine.

What get's me is the flexible pipe interconnects they use. AFAIK, the electromechanical linear actuators for TVC are no longer being used on the first stage. In the renders shown on the website, only 4 of the 12 had them, so they might potentially be still using them. However, the pipe interconnects provide an unnecessary pressure drop of the propellants, especially without gimballing the combustors. Perhaps this is used during testing for finding the optimal angle of the combustors for the best performance?

And they actually achieved stable combustion for a relatively long time as the plume shown is fully developed unlike the last engine fire (notice the big poof of exhaust in the old one? That means that the picture was taken just after choked flow was established)

It's also much more underexpanded than the old engine. Which makes sense for usage in an aerospike engine.

Looks like they are still going with the 90 degree bend for the LOX manifold inlet. Probably for mounting volume constraints, but I'd personally go for a straight inlet to minimize the turbulence and pressure losses. That that probably causes mounting issues.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 06/11/2016 09:06 AM
Personally, I'd like to see a staged combustion or expander cycle engine using thrust augmented nozzles to get both the T/W ratio boost, and some level of altitude compensation.

Are there any particular factors that lead you away from pressure feed?  Tom Markusic knows plenty about turbopumps, so he must have had a good reason for going pressure-fed.  I wonder whether something like pressured-fed TAN might have been in the trade space (maybe licensing is too much of a PITA?).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 06/11/2016 09:15 AM
I always thought that aerospikes would be more relevant to SSTOs than to TSTOs.

I think the key thing that makes an aerospike potentially attractive in this application is the use of pressure feed.  To keep the mass of the prop tanks down, the engine operates at modest pressure.  That means a conventional nozzle would be particularly vulnerable to pressure losses and, hence, altitude compensation is particularly important.

SSTO designs these days, on the other hand, are usually based on high-pressure engines, for which altitude compensation is less important.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: yg1968 on 06/20/2016 03:12 PM
It looks like Firefly raised $19M this month:

https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/firefly-space-systems#/entity

http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/blog/techflash/2016/06/cedar-park-rocket-maker-raises-19-million-funding.html
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: gongora on 07/21/2016 11:45 PM
Tweet from Jeff Foust: (https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/756233011310563329)
Quote
Emerson Gardner, chair of Firefly Space Systems advisory board: 1st launch planned for March 2018; 4 launches that year. CDR this fall.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Steven Pietrobon on 07/22/2016 04:30 AM
That's also the launch month for the NASA VCLS satellites! I wouldn't want my cubesat riding on the first launch of a new vehicle.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 08/01/2016 01:38 AM
The Orbital Mechanics podcast recently did its second interview with Firefly (http://www.theorbitalmechanics.com/show-notes/nexto).  There was one geeky detail that I found particularly interesting.  It turns out that one of the reasons for dropping lox/methane in favor of lox/RP-1 relates to cooling.  As the methane enters the cooling channels it is supercritical.  Eventually, though, the pressure drops below the critical pressure, at which point both the liquid and gaseous phases are present.  Determining the heat-transfer characteristics of the two-phase fluid is tricky -- you don't necessarily know how much of each phase is in contact with the walls of the cooling channels.  There are ways around this, like the use of turbulators, but it was looking like a whole research project all by itself.

Apparently this is not a problem for pump-fed methane engines, because the pressures are much higher.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 08/01/2016 02:20 AM
The Orbital Mechanics podcast recently did its second interview with Firefly (http://www.theorbitalmechanics.com/show-notes/nexto).  There was one geeky detail that I found particularly interesting.  It turns out that one of the reasons for dropping lox/methane in favor of lox/RP-1 relates to cooling.  As the methane enters the cooling channels it is supercritical.  Eventually, though, the pressure drops below the critical pressure, at which point both the liquid and gaseous phases are present.  Determining the heat-transfer characteristics of the two-phase fluid is tricky -- you don't necessarily know how much of each phase is in contact with the walls of the cooling channels.  There are ways around this, like the use of turbulators, but it was looking like a whole research project all by itself.

Apparently this is not a problem for pump-fed methane engines, because the pressures are much higher.


Well, if you know fluid mechanics, the flow rate of a fluid is determined by the pressure differential. Higher the differential, the faster it is. The faster it is in the cooling channel, a specific parcel of fluid is there for a shorter period of time. Meaning to a specific parcel of fluid, less energy is transferred. So that parcel of fluid does not have time to heat up to start nucleating.

This was an issue with the Space Shuttle Main Engine (RS-25). If you throttle too low (meaning lower pressure) the stay time of the cryogenic hydrogen was too long and would cause boiling of the propellants and lead to burn throughs of the chamber wall. Well, that wasn't the only issue of deep throttling the RS-25, but was one of the limiting factors.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TruthIsStranger on 08/01/2016 11:35 AM
fascinating stuff, Proponent and Davidthefat. Thanks
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: strangequark on 08/01/2016 02:52 PM

I've always wondered about this. Because in order to do an aerospike you pretty much have to use an open cycle of some form (gas generator, etc) because you need bleed gas to let you truncate the spike. But that bleed gas is costing you performance vs going with a closed cycle like expander cycle or staged combustion. You do get an altitude compensation benefit, but you're starting off at a disadvantage in Isp at any given altitude due to the open cycle losses.

Personally, I'd like to see a staged combustion or expander cycle engine using thrust augmented nozzles to get both the T/W ratio boost, and some level of altitude compensation.

But I'm glad someone may actually fly an aerospike, so we can get real data on how it performs in practice vs theory.

~Jon

Not to go too far down this rabbit hole, but this isn't strictly true. Remember that closed expander are severely pressure limited. Open expanders actually deliver improved performance, because you can crank them to much higher chamber pressures, due to the lower pump power requirement, and the high delta-P turbine.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 08/04/2016 11:43 PM
From Reddit:-

https://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/4utclo/virgin_galactic_vs_firefly_ceo_law_suit_getting/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: docmordrid on 08/05/2016 01:51 AM
If the court accepts the notion Markusic's work at Firefly is derived from his work at VG, then why couldn't the argument be made that his VG work on Newton was derived from knowledge gleaned during his days at McGregor? Does SpaceX then own a piece of VG & Newton?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 08/05/2016 10:59 AM
I think the issues are much deeper.

I actually downloaded the documents mentioned in that post last night, and the complaint of VG is that he:-

- started his - competing - company while at VG (documented);
- used VG company resources to do so (documented);
- tried to hire away his colleagues for his startup while still an employee (documented);
- used his access as an employee of VG to their customers to bankroll his startup (documented);
- and finally used IP he was working on for VG as the core of his competing startup (also documented - according to VG, he actually emailed VG's internal counsel to try to get his aerospike work removed from his IPR agreement while he was still an employee and they refused).

All the emails, slide decks and other docs like FF business plan are in the lawsuit filings.

With that background honestly I wouldn't be surprised if there was not a very bad outcome for Firefly... just looking at the lawsuit(s), this document highlights the situation and the cost of these actions, with VG claiming for their lawyer fees in just one of the actions:-

https://www.scribd.com/doc/314360301/Firefly-Systems-v-Markusic-v-Galactic-Virgin-Galactic-opposed-motion-to-dismiss-pdf
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 08/05/2016 05:51 PM
I'm curious, FFSS says that the information they have on designing their systems is public information and not trade secret. How does one in court confirm that fact in court? Wouldn't both VG and FFSS have to show all their designs and have the judge determine that they are indeed trade secret or public information? Wouldn't the judge need to know what is even constituted as public information?

Similarities in design itself isn't implying it's trade secret; it might as well both be public information that was used to design them.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Gliderflyer on 08/06/2016 02:03 AM
There is a new Aviation Week article on Firefly: http://aviationweek.com/space/firefly-targets-late-fall-alpha-aerospike-rocket-tests
Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall. It has some nice details on their engine (mass flow, chamber pressure, etc). There is also an updated picture (attached) of their aerospike. It now looks more like an actual aerospike and less like a plug nozzle.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NaN on 08/06/2016 05:33 AM
I think the issues are much deeper.

I actually downloaded the documents mentioned in that post last night, and the complaint of VG is that he:-

- started his - competing - company while at VG (documented);
- used VG company resources to do so (documented);
- tried to hire away his colleagues for his startup while still an employee (documented);
- used his access as an employee of VG to their customers to bankroll his startup (documented);
- and finally used IP he was working on for VG as the core of his competing startup (also documented - according to VG, he actually emailed VG's internal counsel to try to get his aerospike work removed from his IPR agreement while he was still an employee and they refused).

Thank you for the summary, seems like a serious list if proven. If he directly used VG resources to work on Firefly stuff then it gives them some sort of claim - I have done side projects before but always very careful not to use company resources or time in any way. If you let your side project touch your employer's resources then you put your ownership of it at risk... that is how I understood it, anyway.
What does (documented) mean. A judge accepted the conclusion? Or it's just something VG claims they can document?

Would be a pity if Firefly were derailed due to this, I have been watching with interest.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 08/06/2016 09:36 AM
"Documented" means VG filed certified copies of emails sent/received by Markusic on VG computers between himself and employees, as well as to/from King and Blum, discussing the startup, as well as copies of business plans with dates, company founding documents from the state registry, meeting dates, records of attachment of USB sticks to computers, signed employment contracts, signed IPR agreements, signed non solicitation agreement, personal emails to Richard Branson, etc etc.

Pretty hard evidence, in other words. The main filing is 370 pages.

I agree with you that the mixing of his employment resources with his external activities is very tricky. He would not be the first person to suffer for that. And if you are VG, what do you really want - Firefly out of business I guess? So you have to think that this is a pretty serious threat to the future of the business if the entire company was founded on that basis - don't forget Blum and King were VG space tourist customers as well, and they all met at a private tour of VG facilities (there's an email chain about that too).

I saw earlier here that they recently raised $19m from crowdfunding / SeedInvest. I really wonder if those investors understood the nature of this dispute, because if not, that might lead to more fallout.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NaN on 08/07/2016 05:02 PM
And if you are VG, what do you really want - Firefly out of business I guess? So you have to think that this is a pretty serious threat to the future of the business if the entire company was founded on that basis - don't forget Blum and King were VG space tourist customers as well, and they all met at a private tour of VG facilities (there's an email chain about that too).

VG would not necessarily want them out of business - if VG had a significant stake in someone taking a different attack on this very difficult market, it would act as a hedge.
My uneducated opinion is that, using the Zuckerberg settlements as a model, at most Markusic would give up some portion of his own stake and Firefly could continue on without more radical changes. Hopefully this legal cloud can be removed and we can get back to talking about aerospikes ;)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 08/07/2016 05:29 PM

Sounds like the very reason California isn't friendly to non-competes.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: pippin on 08/07/2016 11:52 PM
But this is not about non-compete clauses, it's about IP breach and misconduct while still under contract, that's something different and would be the same in California
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 08/08/2016 03:55 AM
But this is not about non-compete clauses, it's about IP breach and misconduct while still under contract, that's something different and would be the same in California

So now a lot depends on what he signed when he joined up.  Given that he wasn't exactly an intern, you always fill out the list of IP and skills you bring with you (not only patents.  Any IP.)

And beyond IP, if he just used company resources (email system and phones and whatnot) this doesn't give the company automatic ownership of what he did.  It just means he violated rules.

That said, it doesn't sound like it's going well for him in court.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 08/08/2016 10:48 AM
That said, it doesn't sound like it's going well for him in court.

Looks like Virgin are also suing the CFO, Michael Blum, in Nevada. Not sure why.

https://www.clarkcountycourts.us/Anonymous/CaseDetail.aspx?CaseID=11649595
Title: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: pippin on 08/08/2016 10:51 AM
But this is not about non-compete clauses, it's about IP breach and misconduct while still under contract, that's something different and would be the same in California

So now a lot depends on what he signed when he joined up.  Given that he wasn't exactly an intern, you always fill out the list of IP and skills you bring with you (not only patents.  Any IP.)

And beyond IP, if he just used company resources (email system and phones and whatnot) this doesn't give the company automatic ownership of what he did.  It just means he violated rules.

That said, it doesn't sound like it's going well for him in court.
Usually it should give them ownership if he did things during office hours unless agreed otherwise or clearly unrelated to their business which will be hard to argue here

Anyway... I don't know details so this is pretty much speculation my point was just that this has nothing to do with non-compete clauses
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 08/08/2016 02:39 PM
But this is not about non-compete clauses, it's about IP breach and misconduct while still under contract, that's something different and would be the same in California

So now a lot depends on what he signed when he joined up.  Given that he wasn't exactly an intern, you always fill out the list of IP and skills you bring with you (not only patents.  Any IP.)

And beyond IP, if he just used company resources (email system and phones and whatnot) this doesn't give the company automatic ownership of what he did.  It just means he violated rules.

That said, it doesn't sound like it's going well for him in court.
Usually it should give them ownership if he did things during office hours unless agreed otherwise or clearly unrelated to their business which will be hard to argue here

Anyway... I don't know details so this is pretty much speculation my point was just that this has nothing to do with non-compete clauses
Agree on non compete, less so on ownership.

Automatic ownership is on what you did as part of your work there.

Other stuff, it depends on the state you're litigating in.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NaN on 08/08/2016 04:49 PM
Usually it should give them ownership if he did things during office hours unless agreed otherwise or clearly unrelated to their business which will be hard to argue here

I think that is my understanding as well. IMHO at minimum his personal shares (and job) are at high risk, if the claims are proven. And beyond that there is a huge question mark over new shares I would think. This is what one judge said:

THE COURT: So your remedy on arbitration would be to enter a judgment against Dr. Markusic and take all his stock in Galactic and then, take over the corporation and find out. I mean, it's very easy. I would do that if I was the litigator if the arbiter would go along with it. Seems like the arbiter might if they stonewall it.

Yikes.

This doesn't mean this is a realistic outcome of the mediation. This judge took a very dim view of their attempt to 'stonewall' a mediation order to produce documents. I think he's basically saying comply with the order or you will regret it, suckas.

Producing the documents will then show if actual documents were taken (bad) or if Firefly produced their own new work using the expertise of its employees including Markusic. It's perfectly legal to take expertise you acquire at one employer and apply it at a new one, for obvious reasons.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 08/08/2016 09:54 PM
Hmm. I of course see your point but I think you would have another view in this case of you read the complaint and the supporting documents. I have the main pdf files from the LA court for both sides now. The only reason VG is taking people to actual court is that they are failing to respond to subpoenas issued last year, and with all the delaying tactics from the Firefly Space side the rationale for delaying starts to look a little specious.

I do think it is a pity they are in this situation, but actually if you look at the technical decisions they are also shifting in an alarming manner considering they are planning a 2018 launch e.g. from meth to RP-1, and therefore from from autogenous pressure to He blowdown. The rationale for this change was strange when you consider that was a core technology of the company, almost like the change was... not preferred? Compared to RL - who have had several delays but as far as I know no major tech spec changes - it just looks a little random, and I suspect these legal matters are not helpful.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 08/08/2016 10:10 PM
While it may have been the core technology of the company during founding, it was more or less something on paper. It's probably due to the unexpectedly high heat transfer that is faced by the aerospike scheme that prevented the progression of the specific technology. For a monolithic thrust chamber, the volume to chamber wall area is bigger than the ratio on an aerospike.

Due to the much lower boiling point of methane and simply the fact that there's more surface area for heat transfer to occur, it causes issues with keeping the propellant from boiling within the cooling chambers. It also poses a challenge in cooling the pintle injector that they use. With RP-1, the propellant is still in a liquid state and provides cooling of the outside of the pintle. If the propellant is injected as a gas, it doesn't provide that cooling and alternate injector schemes will have to be investigated. Shortening the pintle injector still possesses the cooling issue as now the combustion is occurring so close to the injector face.

That combined with the fact that they are pursuing an aerospike, I think it was just an engineering decision to choose between aerospike and autogenously pressurized methane. Aerospike won out cause it's a flashier technology. At least that's my theory.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Archibald on 08/09/2016 09:24 AM
Quote
That combined with the fact that they are pursuing an aerospike, I think it was just an engineering decision to choose between aerospike and autogenously pressurized methane. Aerospike won out cause it's a flashier technology. At least that's my theory.

I was quite surprised, too, to see a "return of the aerospike" that way - small startup, expendable vehicle, no liquid hydrogen. Quite a long way from NASA X-33.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Nomic on 08/09/2016 01:19 PM
Have they said how they plan to cool the plug? Surely regenerative cooling the plug and combustion chambers is to much of a pressure drop.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 08/09/2016 02:58 PM
Have they said how they plan to cool the plug? Surely regenerative cooling the plug and combustion chambers is to much of a pressure drop.
The plug is a lot smaller than a nozzle.

Could they have a smaller cooling flow that goes into the exhaust, running parallel to the main flow into the chamber?

Still a waste of propellant, but maybe the only available option?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 08/09/2016 03:00 PM
Abandoning the hokey plug nozzle is fine.

I just want these companies (Rocketlab, Virgin Galactic, Firefly, Garvey/Vector, etc) to get something flying. Then refine the technology, add a plug nozzle or methane fuel or whathaveyou.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: GalacticIntruder on 08/09/2016 03:26 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be)

FFSS with Tom Markusic, and team.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Gliderflyer on 08/09/2016 03:26 PM
Have they said how they plan to cool the plug? Surely regenerative cooling the plug and combustion chambers is to much of a pressure drop.
I believe they are cooling it with the helium used for tank press. The helium bottles are stored in the LOX tank, so this has the benefit of warming it up.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 08/09/2016 03:49 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be)

FFSS with Tom Markusic, and team.

Copper engine chamber. I mean, it's an impressive and slick video, but that's a copper engine, right - green flame? That has a certain (early) place in the engine development cycle for thermal measurements.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Wolfram66 on 08/09/2016 04:45 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be)

FFSS with Tom Markusic, and team.

Copper engine chamber. I mean, it's an impressive and slick video, but that's a copper engine, right - green flame? That has a certain place in the engine development cycle.

It might even be a Copper-Beryllium alloy. Stronger tensile strength than straight Cu. We used these in the Oil Drilling industry
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 08/09/2016 04:47 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS-pDQdb2_4&feature=youtu.be)

FFSS with Tom Markusic, and team.

Copper engine chamber. I mean, it's an impressive and slick video, but that's a copper engine, right - green flame? That has a certain place in the engine development cycle.

It's almost certainly a calorimeter chamber, given the numerous taps for thermocouples.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: matthewkantar on 08/09/2016 05:55 PM
There is An article about Firefly on Aviation week's website, says combustion chamber has a milled copper liner with an electroplated nickle jacket. Article can be read if you register for free.


Matthew
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 08/09/2016 05:58 PM
There is An article about Firefly on Aviation week's website, says combustion chamber has a milled copper liner with an electroplated nickle jacket. Article can be read if you register for free.


Matthew

Here's a screen capture from the aforementioned video.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: matthewkantar on 08/09/2016 07:17 PM
The part shown in the screen cap above looks printed to me. Thoughts?

Matthew
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Gliderflyer on 08/09/2016 07:51 PM
The part shown in the screen cap above looks printed to me. Thoughts?

Matthew

Probably a mock-up / display piece.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 08/10/2016 02:42 AM
Based on the CAD models on screen, it looks like they are gimballing 4 combustors on each axis of the vehicle. Also having the LOX and He lines going down the middle of the RP-1 tank.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 08/11/2016 07:20 AM
Based on the CAD models on screen, it looks like they are gimballing 4 combustors on each axis of the vehicle. Also having the LOX and He lines going down the middle of the RP-1 tank.

So they have four engines offset / outboard from the main ring of 8 .. I wonder what that does to aerospike performance?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NaN on 08/11/2016 09:57 PM
Based on the CAD models on screen, it looks like they are gimballing 4 combustors on each axis of the vehicle. Also having the LOX and He lines going down the middle of the RP-1 tank.

So they have four engines offset / outboard from the main ring of 8 .. I wonder what that does to aerospike performance?

They may have put some old CAD model onscreen for the video instead of showing the latest. The screencap shows 8 combustors (with perhaps room for 10) in the primary ring plus 4 outboard combustors. The original Alpha/Gamma concept had 8 combustors in the ring for the center core and 4 for the side cores. The Alpha later increased to 10 combustors and is now at 12 combustors as reported and shown by the recent AviationWeek article - so this CAD rendering is not consistent with other things they have shown publicly.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: CameronD on 08/12/2016 12:48 AM
Based on the CAD models on screen, it looks like they are gimballing 4 combustors on each axis of the vehicle. Also having the LOX and He lines going down the middle of the RP-1 tank.

So they have four engines offset / outboard from the main ring of 8 .. I wonder what that does to aerospike performance?

They may have put some old CAD model onscreen for the video instead of showing the latest. The screencap shows 8 combustors (with perhaps room for 10) in the primary ring plus 4 outboard combustors. The original Alpha/Gamma concept had 8 combustors in the ring for the center core and 4 for the side cores. The Alpha later increased to 10 combustors and is now at 12 combustors as reported and shown by the recent AviationWeek article - so this CAD rendering is not consistent with other things they have shown publicly.

That sounds like the usual strategy.. work madly on V2.0 whilst publicly displaying V1.0. :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Nomic on 08/12/2016 09:27 AM
Quite a few of studies of aerospikes have proposed differential throttling instead of gimballing, which would seem to fit well with 12 separate combustion chambers. That is if it can provide enough control authority, also would be a lot of valves to manage. Alternatively could have a mix so 2D gimbaling for roll control, throttling for the rest? Lot of trades to look at.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 08/12/2016 04:56 PM
Quite a few of studies of aerospikes have proposed differential throttling instead of gimballing, which would seem to fit well with 12 separate combustion chambers. That is if it can provide enough control authority, also would be a lot of valves to manage. Alternatively could have a mix so 2D gimbaling for roll control, throttling for the rest? Lot of trades to look at.

I believe that steering control (or limit thereof) has always been one of the reasons that projects have ultimately steered away from using aerospikes. (pun intended) So this may be a good compromise.

But yikes, 12 combustion chambers makes the F9 plumbing look simple in comparison.  :)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 09/11/2016 08:26 AM
Bad news from the lawsuit for Markusic/Firefly - the arbitrator has made a terminating sanctions ruling that basically says Markusic did take Virgin trade secrets, destroyed evidence that he took it, stonewalled the arbitration process, and transferred Virgin confidential information to Firefly computers. All Markusic counterclaims and answers are stricken as a sanction and these things are now basically taken as fact - Virgin doesn't need to prove he took all the information, just to prove that it was used. It is also taken as fact that he solicited a wide range of Virgin employees. Here are some extracts, this is public record in the LA court system case # BC609407:-

"It is appropriate to find that the destruction of evidence was intentional since it has been so systematic and thorough. Respondent [Markusic] claims ignorance about legal proceedings, but that protestation rings hollow at this point. Unlike the Williams case, Respondent did not allow someone else to destroy evidence - he did it himself, and more than once. He also orchestrated or failed to prevent destruction of files by others connected to Firefly."

"A thorough review of the evidence in this case and a careful analysis of its history leaves the Arbitrator with the abiding conviction the Respondent and his compatriots [King, Blum, and Firefly] have completely undermined this action. Under the circumstances it is appropriate to foreclose any effort by Respondent to attempt to demonstrate that he does not possess Claimant's [Virgin Galactic] claimed proprietary and trade secret information. The Arbitrator is of the view that at the evidentiary hearings, Claimant must prove only Respondent's use of this information." Aug 16 2016, Judge Lamothe, case no. 01-12-0002-2467.

Ouch.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 09/11/2016 11:42 PM
I think that's actually good for Firefly. They say they were opposed to Virgin Galactic's fishing expedition and now they don't have to turn over anything (I guess), which is what they wanted. If they're returned to arbitration at this point, a settlement is more likely, and Firefly might survive - maybe.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 09/12/2016 02:39 AM
That's true, now they don't have to worry about turning over all their internal docs to Virgin.

I hope they settle soon and everyone can move forward without the uncertainty of this issue hanging over everything.  I also hope Firefly remains independent.  It's better to have more competitors.  Even though most will go out of business, the more there are, the more likely a good solution will emerge.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 09/12/2016 08:33 AM
Now, what are the potential outcomes if the court finds that Markusic did use Virgins information and resources? Is it just a big payment to Virgin and potentially goes bankrupt? Firefly gets acquired? If Firefly does go defunct, Virgin still can't use any technology they found by reading the documents that Markusic handed over. What's the end game here?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 09/12/2016 08:37 AM
Firefly is in direct competition to VG, given the upper hand I doubt VG will leave them alone. Best Firefly can hope for is VG taking stake in Firefly, long term maybe merger with VG.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 09/12/2016 10:52 AM
Referring back to earlier in the thread. A company of 140 people, with plan to hire 60 more by years end. That is a very respectable sized team. Must put a real damper on hiring prospects.
If VG somehow forces this into ruin or a merger they probably would have little to no hope of retaining these folks, i would think. Really sh*tty situation with no good outcomes.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 09/12/2016 11:20 AM
Referring back to earlier in the thread. A company of 140 people, with plan to hire 60 more by years end. That is a very respectable sized team. Must put a real damper on hiring prospects.
If VG somehow forces this into ruin or a merger they probably would have little to no hope of retaining these folks, i would think. Really sh*tty situation with no good outcomes.

Well it's hard to hold VG to blame for defending their rights. The rulings also point out that the Firefly team knew litigation was likely while they were setting up Firefly.

There's a late 2013 quote from a guy called Dan Coughlin at VG, who they tried to recruit:

"[w]e should strategize on how best for you and the team to transition. If you/we do anything to appear to do the company harm, VG could take legal action. Drowning people thrash. An injunction would grind FF to a halt quickly."

There's another passage that says:-

'[Markusic] forwarded his email to Blum and King to share his strategy with them writing '"I'm trying to head this IP issue off". King responded that the message had "the slight read of someone who is aware that they [VG] may be contemplating a suit". As [VG] argues, "in light of these documents, there is no doubt that Dr. Markusic reasonably anticipated litigation with Virgin Galactic at the time he destroyed relevant evidence."


Then this:

On or about December 5 2013, Markusic called Virgin Galactic's General Counsel, Marc Holzapfel, to inquire about whether he could carve out his work on aerospike technology from the scope of the intellectual property assignment provision of his intellectual property agreement. Markusic followed up with Holzapfel by email on or about December 23 2013, asking "any news... on the aerospike exemptions amendment to my employment agreement? This is important to me." Virgin Galactic did not agree to Markusic's request.

That quote right there shows the core issue.

The judge says:-

"Beginning in late 2013, [Markusic] and his co-founders obviously knew that they could be sued as a result of their actions."

I honestly can't blame Virgin if there are consequences.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Darkseraph on 09/12/2016 11:33 AM
All the same, it would extremely suck if legal action resulted in the shuttering of Firefly. Autogenously Pressurized Methane Aerospike Rocket on a Composite Body has a nice ring to it!

Markusic's company are really pushing the state of the art and it would be a shame if those technologies were obstructed by legal action.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 09/12/2016 01:12 PM
All the same, it would extremely suck if legal action resulted in the shuttering of Firefly. Autogenously Pressurized Methane Aerospike Rocket on a Composite Body has a nice ring to it!

I think they have abandoned methane and autogenous pressurization for RP-1 and helium pressurization. It was mentioned in a recent podcast.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 09/12/2016 03:32 PM
All the same, it would extremely suck if legal action resulted in the shuttering of Firefly. Autogenously Pressurized Methane Aerospike Rocket on a Composite Body has a nice ring to it!

I think they have abandoned methane and autogenous pressurization for RP-1 and helium pressurization. It was mentioned in a recent podcast.

They are still looking into it. Now to what extent? I don't know. But they described it more as a side project while most of the team is working on the RP-1 version. I'm guessing it's an handful of engineers doing analysis and simulations.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 09/12/2016 04:11 PM
All the same, it would extremely suck if legal action resulted in the shuttering of Firefly. Autogenously Pressurized Methane Aerospike Rocket on a Composite Body has a nice ring to it!

I think they have abandoned methane and autogenous pressurization for RP-1 and helium pressurization. It was mentioned in a recent podcast.

They are still looking into it. Now to what extent? I don't know. But they described it more as a side project while most of the team is working on the RP-1 version. I'm guessing it's an handful of engineers doing analysis and simulations.

Hmm. They said they had gone all RP-1 on this podcast due to some phase change issues in the chamber, also dropped autogenous for helium press, "just like everyone else":-

http://theorbitalmechanics.com/show-notes/nexto @ 39m:30s
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 09/12/2016 04:25 PM
All the same, it would extremely suck if legal action resulted in the shuttering of Firefly. Autogenously Pressurized Methane Aerospike Rocket on a Composite Body has a nice ring to it!

I think they have abandoned methane and autogenous pressurization for RP-1 and helium pressurization. It was mentioned in a recent podcast.

They are still looking into it. Now to what extent? I don't know. But they described it more as a side project while most of the team is working on the RP-1 version. I'm guessing it's an handful of engineers doing analysis and simulations.

Hmm. They said they had gone all RP-1 on this podcast due to some phase change issues in the chamber, also dropped autogenous for helium press, "just like everyone else":-

http://theorbitalmechanics.com/show-notes/nexto @ 39m:30s


I guess I recalled that interview wrong. Since re-usability isn't an immediate goal, I wonder if they could have gone with an autogeneously pressurized ablative engine. I'd figure it would be a lot easier to manage by only having to consider cooling the spike without the combustors. Multiple loops of cooling channels are an option; the flow doesn't have to go from tip to tip, but can travel shorter lengths along the spike.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: edkyle99 on 09/12/2016 04:36 PM
I'm going to suggest that this litigation won't be good for the ultimate winner either.  Virgin may win and may destroy this competitor, but its fear of a tiny, quick-footed rival has exposed a vulnerability. 

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Chilly on 09/12/2016 05:23 PM
Well, we all know VG has their own issues. If they're trying to pivot towards the smallsat market while keeping SS2 afloat, then keeping a lid on competitors who are arguably much farther ahead would be mighty tempting. *Especially* if said competitor's business is founded on intellectual property that VG feels they have a rightful claim to.

I really like what Firefly is building so I hope it can keep going if VG ends up owning it by default. Even worse than tabling the whole enterprise would be having it steamrolled under the Branson Bluster Machine (Lock S-Foils in Hype position!).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: NaN on 09/12/2016 06:51 PM
I really like what Firefly is building so I hope it can keep going if VG ends up owning it by default. Even worse than tabling the whole enterprise would be having it steamrolled under the Branson Bluster Machine (Lock S-Foils in Hype position!).

There's no real way that the bolded part works out - if VG takes a majority stake somehow, it would kill Firefly. You don't bust your butt at a startup to make money for somebody else that took you in a lawsuit - you do it for yourself, the people you're working shoulder to shoulder with, and the company you feel a part of. The vitality would quickly drain out of Firefly.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: strangequark on 09/13/2016 01:20 AM
I really like what Firefly is building so I hope it can keep going if VG ends up owning it by default. Even worse than tabling the whole enterprise would be having it steamrolled under the Branson Bluster Machine (Lock S-Foils in Hype position!).

There's no real way that the bolded part works out - if VG takes a majority stake somehow, it would kill Firefly. You don't bust your butt at a startup to make money for somebody else that took you in a lawsuit - you do it for yourself, the people you're working shoulder to shoulder with, and the company you feel a part of. The vitality would quickly drain out of Firefly.

You're assuming they wouldn't provide similar equity and other compensation to the core people (excluding Markusic, who would obviously be gone). If those people are incentivized to stay, and as long as they don't all have deep personal loyalty to Tom Markusic, what's it to them if the majority shareholders change?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 09/13/2016 02:19 AM
You're assuming they wouldn't provide similar equity and other compensation to the core people (excluding Markusic, who would obviously be gone). If those people are incentivized to stay, and as long as they don't all have deep personal loyalty to Tom Markusic, what's it to them if the majority shareholders change?

What comes with joining a new team of 3-5 people and building it up to the size of what Firefly is now, is very, very different from joining  a ~10 year old company with 250 employees.  "Startups" are not all the same thing.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 09/13/2016 03:15 PM
You're assuming they wouldn't provide similar equity and other compensation to the core people (excluding Markusic, who would obviously be gone). If those people are incentivized to stay, and as long as they don't all have deep personal loyalty to Tom Markusic, what's it to them if the majority shareholders change?

What comes with joining a new team of 3-5 people and building it up to the size of what Firefly is now, is very, very different from joining  a ~10 year old company with 250 employees.  "Startups" are not all the same thing.

Firefly is 140 people.  95% of them didn't join when it was a new team of 3-5 people.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 09/13/2016 03:57 PM
You're assuming they wouldn't provide similar equity and other compensation to the core people (excluding Markusic, who would obviously be gone). If those people are incentivized to stay, and as long as they don't all have deep personal loyalty to Tom Markusic, what's it to them if the majority shareholders change?

What comes with joining a new team of 3-5 people and building it up to the size of what Firefly is now, is very, very different from joining  a ~10 year old company with 250 employees.  "Startups" are not all the same thing.

Firefly is 140 people.  95% of them didn't join when it was a new team of 3-5 people.
Much of the leadership probably did.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: PhotoEngineer on 09/14/2016 04:18 PM
Markusic's company are really pushing the state of the art and it would be a shame if those technologies were obstructed by legal action.

From a pure technology aspect yes, but from a business ethics standpoint no.  Having companies that are established on the stolen IP of someone else is a horrible precedent to set in the industry. All of this tech takes years of work, research, and testing to develop....you don't want someone to walk off with it as soon as your done.  A better play for him would have been to go after a different market segment than VG, then they potentially would have licensed him the IP for a low rate.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 09/24/2016 09:17 PM
Taken from the IAC conference schedule;
Quote
September 27 2016, 14:45 — Salon Jalisco E2
...
IAC-16.D2.7.9
KEY TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENTS FOR THE FIREFLY ALPHA SMALL
LAUNCH VEHICLE – TEST PROGRAMME RESULTS & OUTCOMES
Andy Bradford, Firefly Space Systems, United Kingdom
Do the smaller IAC talks like this tend to end up on the internet?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 09/24/2016 09:20 PM
Taken from the IAC conference schedule;
Quote
September 27 2016, 14:45 — Salon Jalisco E2
...
IAC-16.D2.7.9
KEY TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENTS FOR THE FIREFLY ALPHA SMALL
LAUNCH VEHICLE – TEST PROGRAMME RESULTS & OUTCOMES
Andy Bradford, Firefly Space Systems, United Kingdom
Do the smaller IAC talks like this tend to end up on the internet?

Looking at their Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/iafastro/videos, it does seem likely that the talk would be available online. Not certain whether it would be streamed live, but likely to be uploaded after the fact.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 09/24/2016 09:45 PM
Looking at their Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/iafastro/videos, it does seem likely that the talk would be available online. Not certain whether it would be streamed live, but likely to be uploaded after the fact.
I've had a closer look, and it's only a few highlight talks and major ones like the plenary sessions, at least for last year.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 09/26/2016 01:56 PM
Popped in freshly on Twitter:

Quote
Full Mission Duty Cycle Test a Success for Firefly Space Systems

CEDAR PARK, Texas, September 26, 2016

Firefly Space Systems, the Texas-based developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today that it has successfully completed over 50 hot fire tests of its combustor, including multiple full mission duty cycle (“MDC”) tests.

“These tests of our combustor retire critical engine design risk elements and place Firefly among an elite group of newspace companies that have successfully performed an MDC hot fire on a flight weight combustor. We have shown that our regeneratively cooled engine is capable of withstanding the stresses associated with long duration hot fires,” said Firefly Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rqWc6QrHzM

http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/full-mission-duty-cycle-test-a-success-for-firefly-space-systems
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: rocx on 09/26/2016 02:00 PM
Is this Awesome Rocket Development Tweet Day or something?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 09/29/2016 10:35 PM
They just posted the attached statement on twitter. Doesn't sound good.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 09/29/2016 10:40 PM
Uh oh.  That sounds very ominus.  Not even being able to say yet what the path forward is is a bad sign.

I wonder how much of this is related to the lawsuit.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 09/29/2016 11:31 PM
They were in the middle of a big hiring campaign as well. It's a real bummer to the individuals that are affected by the cut in funding.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: GalacticIntruder on 09/29/2016 11:35 PM
Seems like no one can finance them as long VG has a very good chance of winning their IP lawsuit, and owning FFSS.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kosmos2001 on 09/30/2016 06:36 PM
Spaceflight Insider article: Fireflight Space Systems burns out? (http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/missions/commercial/firefly-space-systems-burns/)

It will be very bad news if they can't recover from this and cease their operations. I hope they will overcome.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Helodriver on 09/30/2016 06:41 PM
The rumors going around at the IAC were that they are looking into another engine because of IP concerns.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kosmos2001 on 09/30/2016 07:22 PM
They just now twitted this: These guys want to get back to work! Owners and management are so honored to have such a dedicated and committed team #SaveFirefly (https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/781936286911242240)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 09/30/2016 07:39 PM
https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/781936286911242240

This spells... T R O U B L E  :o

Quote
Firefly Space ‏@Firefly_Space  20m20 minutes ago
These guys want to get back to work! Owners and management are so honored to have such a dedicated and committed team #SaveFirefly
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 09/30/2016 08:01 PM
What could be the potential IP violation? Legally speaking, what protection is there for intellectual property that isn't patented or copyrighted or have any pending?

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: gongora on 09/30/2016 08:26 PM
What could be the potential IP violation? Legally speaking, what protection is there for intellectual property that isn't patented or copyrighted or have any pending?

If he worked on the engine while at his previous employer (he apparently did) and his employment agreement didn't specify that the previous employer would forfeit rights to that technology (it apparently didn't), then the previous employer would have rights to it.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Toast on 09/30/2016 08:28 PM
The rumors going around at the IAC were that they are looking into another engine because of IP concerns.

Would they also be ditching the aerospike design? I seem to recall hearing that the Virgin suit included the aerospike, not just the engines.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FinalFrontier on 09/30/2016 09:00 PM
Read a bit more about this, particularly wrt recent legal issues.

I have some very serious misgivings having read what I have read, but this forum is not the place to air them. Instead I will simply say that I do not expect to see this company go forward in any meaningful way in the near future though longer term remains to be seen.



Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/01/2016 01:38 PM
It seems they had a setback on funding they expected. The reasons are unclear but with that case unsettled, and that recent harsh ruling against Markusic, I would be amazed if a professional investor will touch them. This was actually stated by their own lawyer in one of the legal filings. Markusic's behavior while a VG employee is now on the legal public record.

You don't need inside information to understand this situation, it's all public, including their business plans, in the legal filings. Just the public data is extraordinary - they were burning money like they were printing it, 150-200 staff .... Obviously they need/needed someone to finance those expenses. Without significant revenue, it's equity or debt. And again, if you are any kind of professional fiduciary, where you have to do due diligence, you are not putting any money into that situation. Not a penny. Especially if it is Branson suing; Branson beat British Airways - do you really think he will stop against anyone who he feels has wronged him, especially when he has a horse in the race?

I said it before, and at least one judge in Texas has said it too: they should have settled that suit right quick, instead of running a spoiler game that was as transparent as glass and made them look awful. Now they are basically up a gum tree.

On top of that, all the technical changes are a sure sign of trouble. Autogenous press becomes helium press, methane becomes RP-1... at some point they have zero novelty or technical advantage, and each change reduces credibility. I would not be surprised to see a liquidation or firesale before the end of the year.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/01/2016 01:59 PM
They just now twitted this: These guys want to get back to work! Owners and management are so honored to have such a dedicated and committed team #SaveFirefly (https://twitter.com/Firefly_Space/status/781936286911242240)

That tweet was deleted.... They removed the "these guys want to get back to work" bit. Implying that "those guys" are currently not working...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kosmos2001 on 10/01/2016 05:21 PM
This is so sad.  :'(
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 10/01/2016 06:45 PM
The aerospike engine may fly but at another company. If Firefly closes shop the staff and knowledge they've gained will end up in other LV companies.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 10/02/2016 04:15 AM
The aerospike engine may fly but at another company. If Firefly closes shop the staff and knowledge they've gained will end up in other LV companies.

Only if the entire team gets transferred.  If it's just individuals, a huge amount of know-how disappears.

That, plus all the IP problems.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 10/02/2016 07:59 AM
So long.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: PhotoEngineer on 10/02/2016 10:05 PM
I feel sorry for all those engineers.  Looking at Linked In and a lot of them have only been there a few months.  Just a sucky situation for them.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 10/03/2016 12:00 PM
Whoopsie...

http://spacenews.com/firefly-space-systems-furloughs-staff-after-investor-backs-out/

Quote
WASHINGTON — Firefly Space Systems, a Texas company developing a small launch vehicle, has furloughed its entire staff after an investor backed out, forcing the firm to consider alternative vehicle concepts or even a sale of the company.

In a brief statement posted to its Twitter account Sept. 29, Firefly Space Systems said a recent “setback in funding” forced the company to “take necessary action to maintain cash-flow equilibrium and position our company for future success.” Firefly did not elaborate on its situation other than tweeting a photo of company employees Sept. 30 with the caption, “Owners and management are so honored to have such a dedicated and committed team.”

What stood out for me is this quote (emp. mine):
Quote
Markusic declined to identify the investor, other than to say the investor was based in Europe. “Brexit had something to do with it,” he said, referring to the decision by voters in a June referendum in the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. “All the messaging that we got was that it wasn’t us. They were going to go in a different strategic direction.”

Yeah sure, 'it wasn't us'... I am 100% that this investor is not at all worried about the lawsuit and all you know... ow wait...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 10/03/2016 04:26 PM
Firefly plan to air launch LV.
Interesting article by Doug.


http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/10/02/firefly-planned-air-launch-small-satellite-booster/

If there is a link to Stratolauncher then all may not be lost for Firefly. I can't see Stratolauncher (Vulcan Inc) letting Firefly disappear if they need their LV.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 10/03/2016 05:27 PM
Firefly plan to air launch LV.
Interesting article by Doug.


http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/10/02/firefly-planned-air-launch-small-satellite-booster/

If there is a link to Stratolauncher then all may not be lost for Firefly. I can't see Stratolauncher (Vulcan Inc) letting Firefly disappear if they need their LV.


I have been sitting on a well-sourced rumor for some time that Vulcan is/was involved in Firefly.  My understanding was they were an investor or about to become one.  With the current churning, perhaps the truth will out.

But I can't see Allen's advisors letting him get into a legal snake pit with VG.  I recall Burt showing me the massive contract that Vulcan required for participation in SpaceShipOne.  I doubt they have become less vigilant in protecting Allen's interests.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Robotbeat on 10/03/2016 06:20 PM
If Vulcan (who sound like adults) are involved, sounds like the Firefly team may not be utterly devoid of hope. Markusic is screwed. Vulcan won't touch it unless they can come to an understanding with Virgin, but I see a possibility of that happening.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: russianhalo117 on 10/03/2016 07:12 PM
Whoopsie...

http://spacenews.com/firefly-space-systems-furloughs-staff-after-investor-backs-out/

Quote
WASHINGTON — Firefly Space Systems, a Texas company developing a small launch vehicle, has furloughed its entire staff after an investor backed out, forcing the firm to consider alternative vehicle concepts or even a sale of the company.

In a brief statement posted to its Twitter account Sept. 29, Firefly Space Systems said a recent “setback in funding” forced the company to “take necessary action to maintain cash-flow equilibrium and position our company for future success.” Firefly did not elaborate on its situation other than tweeting a photo of company employees Sept. 30 with the caption, “Owners and management are so honored to have such a dedicated and committed team.”

What stood out for me is this quote (emp. mine):
Quote
Markusic declined to identify the investor, other than to say the investor was based in Europe. “Brexit had something to do with it,” he said, referring to the decision by voters in a June referendum in the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. “All the messaging that we got was that it wasn’t us. They were going to go in a different strategic direction.”

Yeah sure, 'it wasn't us'... I am 100% that this investor is not at all worried about the lawsuit and all you know... ow wait...

And right after there latest full duration hot fire test.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Jet Black on 10/04/2016 11:08 AM
The aerospike engine may fly but at another company. If Firefly closes shop the staff and knowledge they've gained will end up in other LV companies.

There would be an issue if that IP is based on stolen VG IP though. I suspect this could be damaging to quite a few careers.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/04/2016 12:45 PM
The aerospike engine may fly but at another company. If Firefly closes shop the staff and knowledge they've gained will end up in other LV companies.

There would be an issue if that IP is based on stolen VG IP though. I suspect this could be damaging to quite a few careers.

At this point I think Firefly are kidding themselves if they think the IP issue is not a factor. Now imagine if Virgin thinks Paul Allen / Vulcan is going to pick it up for Stratolauncher, creating a serious competitor... why would they allow or want that? That is even worse for VG. VG will probably slow down their litigation to drag it out and just ensure it gets strangled to death or into irrelevancy. Even if Tom Markusic leaves, the techncial base of the company itself has a reputation problem now. How do you sell that?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/04/2016 12:56 PM
Wow - they have been air launch since April, and the contract value more than halved... frankly I am stunned. I thought the technical changes were extreme - methane->RP-1, auto press->helium press, but moving from VL to air launch? That is just another level...

$-2.4m    9/27/16    Funding Only Action

VCLS IS A FIRM-FIXED PRICE CONTRACT FOR A DEDICATED LAUNCH SERVICE FOR U-CLASS SATELLITES WITH NASA HAVING SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PAYLOAD ON THE LAUNCH VEHICLE. NASA LAUNCH SERVICES PROGRAM (LSP) SUPPORTS THE CUBESAT LAUNCH INITIATIVE (CSLI) BY PROVIDING LAUNCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR CUBESATS THAT ARE CURRENTLY ON THE MANIFEST BACK LOG. THE PURPOSE OF MOD 02 IS TO DEOBLIGATE FUNDING IN THE NET AMOUNT OF $2,487,125. THE PURPOSE OF MOD 01 IS TO CHANGE THE CONFIGURATION FROM A LAND LAUNCH TO AN AIR LAUNCH AND TO REVISE THE MISSION SUCCESS CRITERIA.
Close
--    4/29/16    Supplemental Agreement For Work Within Scope

VCLS IS A FIRM-FIXED PRICE CONTRACT FOR A DEDICATED LAUNCH SERVICE FOR U-CLASS SATELLITES WITH NASA HAVING SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PAYLOAD ON THE LAUNCH VEHICLE. NASA LAUNCH SERVICES PROGRAM (LSP) SUPPORTS THE CUBESAT LAUNCH INITIATIVE (CSLI) BY PROVIDING LAUNCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR CUBESATS THAT ARE CURRENTLY ON THE MANIFEST BACK LOG. THE PURPOSE OF MOD 01 IS TO CHANGE THE CONFIGURATION FROM A LAND LAUNCH TO AN AIR LAUNCH AND TO REVISE THE MISSION SUCCESS CRITERIA.

$4.4m    9/30/15    Not Listed

VCLS IS A FIRM-FIXED PRICE CONTRACT FOR A DEDICATED LAUNCH SERVICE FOR U-CLASS SATELLITES WITH NASA HAVING SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PAYLOAD ON THE LAUNCH VEHICLE. NASA LAUNCH SERVICES PROGRAM (LSP) SUPPORTS THE CUBESAT LAUNCH INITIATIVE (CSLI) BY PROVIDING LAUNCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR CUBESATS THAT ARE CURRENTLY ON THE MANIFEST BACK LOG.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Skyrocket on 10/04/2016 09:45 PM
Wow - they have been air launch since April, and the contract value more than halved... frankly I am stunned. I thought the technical changes were extreme - methane->RP-1, auto press->helium press, but moving from VL to air launch? That is just another level...

Great find. Interestingly, the payload user guide on their webpage dated from 18 May 2016 does not yet mention air launch.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/05/2016 06:45 PM
This story in Sat News says a US backer also pulled out:-

"...the firm's major European investor decided to remove their financing support from Firefly's efforts in late September, which then resulted in a major US financier to also depart the company's efforts."

http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=1437325766


Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lars-J on 10/24/2016 05:54 PM
What's the current status of Firefly? It has been three weeks now since the last news...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 10/26/2016 12:05 AM
What's the current status of Firefly? It has been three weeks now since the last news...

It's not good
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/10/25/virgin-galactic-sues-firefly-officers-alleged-misappropriation-trade-secrets/

This thread should be renamed now. From 'introducing' to 'we hardly knew you' or something.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/26/2016 12:16 AM
What's the current status of Firefly? It has been three weeks now since the last news...

It's not good
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/10/25/virgin-galactic-sues-firefly-officers-alleged-misappropriation-trade-secrets/

This thread should be renamed now. From 'introducing' to 'we hardly knew you' or something.
So Virgin is playing for the entire company now... That is a clear grab for the shares not controlled by Markusic. This is just a godawful mess. I think the investor who bolted dodged a bullet. Would you invest in this?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 10/26/2016 05:07 AM
All staff have been laid off so it is goodbye Firefly. Hopefully VG will take over the facilities and some of staff.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 10/26/2016 06:58 AM
The awful part is that with disasters like this, it's that much harder to get another team and company funded. Nothing like IP and legal fights to keep investment dollars away from the industry
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/26/2016 07:37 AM
Another report:

https://www.crowelltradesecretstrends.com/2016/10/space-race-starts-anew-as-virgin-galactic-files-trade-secrets-claims-against-rival/ (https://www.crowelltradesecretstrends.com/2016/10/space-race-starts-anew-as-virgin-galactic-files-trade-secrets-claims-against-rival/)

Galactic now alleges that Markusic’s business partners knew that Markusic was providing them with Galactic’s protected trade secrets, and nonetheless used and continue to use that information to build and market their products. If proven true, Galactic asserts that Markusic’s business partners may be personally liable for misappropriating trade secrets.

I said a few replies ago that Virgin would now try to slow things down on the legal front, and here we are.

VG will probably slow down their litigation to drag it out and just ensure it gets strangled to death or into irrelevancy.

I will download the filings later and have a look. Usually they contain lots of detail but I imagine it's very similar to the other complaints. Virgin usually offers written evidence from emails, documents exchanged between the three founders to support allegations - the older suits are full of them.

Once again it just proves you should not go into such fights against a billionaire. I remember an episode of High Stakes Poker where David Benyamine bet basically his entire net worth against Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, who makes that amount of money in a day. The look on Benyamine's face when he got called is how I imagine the founders feel right now:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4Ps4wRCrp8  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4Ps4wRCrp8)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 10/27/2016 05:33 AM
The biggest victims here are the employees.  They had no way to know of Markusic's behavior (or alleged behavior).  It's one thing to join a company and try and fail in the free market.  This is something else.  I always thought Firefly's chances of making it were slim, but the employees deserved the chance to try, and to succeed or fail in fair competition.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 10/27/2016 06:13 AM
The biggest victims here are the employees. ..

I kind of mildly disagree - its bigger than that, in that it also affects their future employment opportunities. It's the entire space industry being hit. If a company goes bust because their business didn't work out, jobs are lost but most ( not all, of course ) of the core skill-sets get transferred to another employer in some reasonable timeframe, because someone else has a better execution plan.
In the given case, the immediate near term potential for industry to grow, i.e. existing companies to find financing and new team to get funded will be much more limited, and hence employment opportunities will also be further limited.

In other words, that's not creative destruction, it's destructive destruction.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 10/27/2016 05:50 PM
Got a Glassdoor notification that they posted a new Senior Propulsion Engineer position today: https://www.glassdoor.com/job-listing/sr-propulsion-engineer-firefly-space-systems-JV_IC1139765_KO0,22_KE23,44.htm?jl=1997048458

May be they are still trying to keep the company going right now regardless of the lawsuits and budget cuts?


Interesting revelation is that they are working on a staged combustion engine now... Seems to be moving further and further away from their original goal. Scope creep much? Now it seems like a totally reactionary course of action, presumably, to get as far away from whatever Virgin can accuse of being their IP. Given Markusic was also a propulsion engineer on the early Raptor (while it was still a LOX/LH engine), it's not too far fetched for them to pursue the staged combustion engine. But is that a good move business wise?


edit 2: I guess it is an old posting.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 10/27/2016 06:11 PM
Got a Glassdoor notification that they posted a new Senior Propulsion Engineer position today: https://www.glassdoor.com/job-listing/sr-propulsion-engineer-firefly-space-systems-JV_IC1139765_KO0,22_KE23,44.htm?jl=1997048458

May be they are still trying to keep the company going right now regardless of the lawsuits and budget cuts?

Interesting revelation is that they are working on a staged combustion engine now... Seems to be moving further and further away from their original goal. Scope creep much? Now it seems like a totally reactionary course of action, presumably, to get as far away from whatever Virgin can accuse of being their IP. Given Markusic was also a propulsion engineer on the early Raptor (while it was still a LOX/LH engine), it's not too far fetched for them to pursue the staged combustion engine. But is that a good move business wise?

Given that they furloughed a team of more than 100, wouldn't you think they'd start by hiring back some of those people before advertising for entirely new engineers?  I think this Glassdoor notification must be some automated thing for a position they already had listed before the disaster hit.  Companies often have systems for automatically re-posting positions to make them look like they are new openings, to attract attention.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 10/27/2016 08:30 PM
The job listing is identical to the 'Sr. Propulsion Engineer' listing at the careers section on Firefly's site. Wayback machine shows (https://web.archive.org/web/20141217060949/http://www.fireflyspace.com/careers) that this listing has existed, with the same wording about SC engines, since at least December 2014.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 10/28/2016 09:18 PM
It's been a month now and there's no sign of any movement to reconstitute the team.

It's hard to see any path forward for Firefly at this point.  The former employees need to eat and pay rent, so by now most will have other jobs lined up.  So they would need to largely start from scratch to build a team.  And if they couldn't get funding when they had a team in place, it's just going to be that much harder now.  Not only would it be harder to move forward now versus two months ago, but now they also have failure associated with them.  Investors are much more wary of a company that has already failed once.

The best they could hope for now would be some kind of Kistler-like scenario, where another organization buys the assets of a failed company and tries to re-start the design.  We all saw how well that worked out for Kistler.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Beittil on 10/31/2016 08:41 AM
Why would anybody want to burn their fingers on buying the assets of a company that has been effectively killed due to IP lawsuits and the resulting withdrawal of financial backing because of it?

Somebody here already predicted that VG would slow down the legal process now long enough to effectively strangle Firefly to dead. As you noted, it has been a month now and the (former) employees need to move on!

Even if Firefly does manage to get through this and attract some funding, who is to say that the staff will want to return with all the risks of VG upping their legal game again, shutting it down once more.

It is such a shame to see this happening, but this is all to blame of Markusic's actions. I have come to believe that we are looking at a dead and soon to be burried new space startup here, which is a shame really... because they were really promising.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 10/31/2016 09:03 AM
Well if you are an investor the minimum you want to see is the IP issue definitively settled, otherwise what are you actually buying except some tables and computers? It's fine that the Firefly team see their side of the case, but there is someone making a formal claim on the other side, so whatever they say it needs to be formally settled.

The problem is that to get a settlement with VG will almost certainly mean they lose the company - what else would they be happy with? That's probably why the Firefly guys keep fighting the case.

But that only works if they have cash to survive the fight and that looks questionable at least with recent events. And even then, with recent rulings, they are still rolling the dice: if the odds of winning are better than 50/50 I would be amazed. Plus there is the cost - the litigation to date has probably cost a couple of million for each side, and Virgin is already applying to have costs awarded.

It really is a difficult situation and gets worse by the day.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 11/04/2016 06:39 AM
Another court report - this one says Markusic claims VG got a big military contractor working on XS-1 to stop talking to Firefly (last few paragraphs):

http://www.law360.com/articles/831887/virgin-galactic-rocket-scientist-blasted-in-secrets-battle
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ThePhugoid on 11/04/2016 05:28 PM
Another court report - this one says Markusic claims VG got a big military contractor working on XS-1 to stop talking to Firefly (last few paragraphs):

http://www.law360.com/articles/831887/virgin-galactic-rocket-scientist-blasted-in-secrets-battle

Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk

Article is behind a paywall...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 11/04/2016 05:43 PM
Article is behind a paywall...
Can be bypassed by googling the article title, similar to the WSJ paywall.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: bstrong on 11/08/2016 08:46 PM
Firefly just tweeted this link:

http://www.seeker.com/space-junk-debris-recycle-mars-exploration-satellites-2085063955.html

Apparently Markusic is pitching a scheme to recycle satellites in a manned facility on Phobos??? Even if we had a base on Phobos, this would still be ridiculous. Sounds like he has completely lost it.

Also:

Quote
"The way I do things is I go very fast, so our burn rates are high. To have an interruption throws sand in the gears," Markusic said, adding he had to lay off half his staff while looking for other partners.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ThePhugoid on 11/09/2016 11:52 PM
Also:

Quote
"The way I do things is I go very fast, so our burn rates are high. To have an interruption throws sand in the gears," Markusic said, adding he had to lay off half his staff while looking for other partners.

Sounds like the words of someone who can really empathize with the furloughed employees left in his wake.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Chris Bergin on 11/14/2016 04:25 PM
Lots of LOIs from customers to try and support them:
http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/customers-rally-in-support-of-firefly-space-systems
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 11/14/2016 04:38 PM
Lots of LOIs from customers to try and support them:
http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/customers-rally-in-support-of-firefly-space-systems
Unless those customers are pre-paying, this sounds like good news for Rocket Lab...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 11/14/2016 04:51 PM
Lots of LOIs from customers to try and support them:
http://www.fireflyspace.com/news/ournews/customers-rally-in-support-of-firefly-space-systems
Unless those customers are pre-paying, this sounds like good news for Rocket Lab...

I agree.

If they were putting down a deposit, or even signing any kind of firm order, the press release would have said that.  "Letter of intent" really means "we're going to say something nice but not commit to anything".

Any potential customer for small satellite launch would be likely to sign an LOI like this, because more competition among providers is always better for them.  Even if they prefer another provider, it can't hurt and is likely to help to have another competitor, if only to drive down prices or give another option in case other providers have problems.  There's nothing to lose by signing an LOI like this.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 11/14/2016 05:01 PM
It's not lack of market potential that is keeping investors away but VG lawsuit and IP rights. It would be a brave or more likely foolish investor that would put money into Firefly while VG issues are unresolved.

Everyday this drags out more of staff and their critical knowledge are moving on, making it that much harder to restart company.

RL are already well financed, it is likes of Vector that well benefit most from this news.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Prober on 11/16/2016 03:41 PM
Seems like no one can finance them as long VG has a very good chance of winning their IP lawsuit, and owning FFSS.


Their lawyers need to do more vetting and they have a new tool. 


Google: wikileaks  "principles in ?"





Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 11/17/2016 06:09 AM
Has anyone heard that Firefly is selling off assets? 
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 11/17/2016 07:18 AM
Has anyone heard that Firefly is selling off assets?
Have not heard that but would not be surprised. The problem is: what assets? The IP is in dispute, the desks and chairs etc are basically worth zero. The test stand might be valuable. Not sure what else they have. Plus you know if you were VG you would ask for an injunction on that, to ensure payment.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: HMXHMX on 11/17/2016 03:24 PM
Has anyone heard that Firefly is selling off assets?
Have not heard that but would not be surprised. The problem is: what assets? The IP is in dispute, the desks and chairs etc are basically worth zero. The test stand might be valuable. Not sure what else they have. Plus you know if you were VG you would ask for an injunction on that, to ensure payment.

The test site was what I was specifically wondering about.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 12/04/2016 08:38 AM
A small update from an (ex-) Firefly employee posting to Reddit (edited out some not-so-relevant lines):-

https://www.reddit.com/r/fireflyspace/comments/5ffj77/new_promotional_video_released_by_firefly_space/

imgoinfast 7 points 5 days ago
And it's cool and all that they are releasing publicity like this, but they still haven't hired back about 98% of us. They don't send us email updates really anymore, either.

hasslehawk 7 points 5 days ago
If I may ask, what have people been doing in the interim?

imgoinfast 5 points 5 days ago
Most of the people I kept in touch with have already found jobs elsewhere.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 12/17/2016 04:31 PM
VG is seeking $40M in direct damages, another $80M in exemplary damages, plus whatever punitives the jury decides are just from Firefly et al:-

(http://i.imgur.com/GuIzZNu.png)

source: Amended complaint case no. BS162525 filed 13 Dec 2016 in LA Courts.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 01/05/2017 02:48 PM
Firefly made this post yesterday, discussing a report that they say shows they used public-domain info and technologies:

Quote
Firefly Alpha Rocket Technology: Overview
January 4th, 2017

Firefly is not alone in pursuing the mission of “rapidly producing a new low-cost, high flight rate launcher” (see Dr. Tom’s March 6, 2015 blog entry). Space is the next frontier for the information revolution. The Firefly team believes that fulfilling the mission will not only enrich successful rocket companies, but also enhance the quality of life for individuals throughout the world. Firefly has promoted the motto: Making Space For Everyone. So today, Firefly is reporting on its progress in developing the Firefly Alpha vehicle. We hope that the high degree of detail provided by Firefly will be useful to others actively pursuing the mission, as well as newspace enthusiasts who want to participate in the “big picture” discussion.

Firefly is striving to rapidly field new launch capability and, hence, has pursued a simplest-soonest technological path that relies on proven, high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) system architectures and components. The first installment of this new blog series provides an overview of the technology employed in the design of Alpha, which relies heavily on the rich heritage of NASA and U.S. public domain technologies that are available in the open-source literature. Last year, Firefly provided open access to the Schafer Corporation – open access to all of Firefly’s facilities and employees — to compile an independent review of the Alpha vehicle architecture and a high-level description of its subsystems. The public-domain origins of the technology employed were established through a detailed list of references, and component technologies were categorized and critiqued for technological maturity using commonly used TRL methodologies. The report contains over one hundred and twenty five public domain references, and clearly outlines how the Alpha design was rapidly evolved by drawing on the reference material. We encourage the community to view or download the report via the links provided below, and participate in Dr. Tom’s Rocket blog by adding comments to this thread.

http://www.fireflyspace.com/newblog/technology-overview (http://www.fireflyspace.com/newblog/technology-overview)

Edit: hmm, just noticed that the report (http://fireflyspace.com/assets/files/Firefly%20Alpha%20Technology%20Overview-20170104161054.pdf) linked to the above post is dated 29th Feb 2016 ...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: mwfair on 01/05/2017 03:42 PM
Firefly made this post yesterday, discussing a report that they say shows they used public-domain info and technologies:
Quote
Firefly Alpha Rocket Technology: Overview
January 4th, 2017
Edit: hmm, just noticed that the report (http://fireflyspace.com/assets/files/Firefly%20Alpha%20Technology%20Overview-20170104161054.pdf) linked to the above post is dated 29th Feb 2016 ...
Good catch, how strange to have such a time lag.  It seems to me that the purpose of the commissioned study is obvious: to refute claims of infringement.  But if that is the case and it has been in play for 10 months then it doesn't seem to have worked.    Perhaps the motivation was more of a public service announcement afterall!  Or simply an external review for their own purpose.  Hmmm....
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 01/05/2017 03:53 PM
Firefly made this post yesterday, discussing a report that they say shows they used public-domain info and technologies:
Quote
Firefly Alpha Rocket Technology: Overview
January 4th, 2017
Edit: hmm, just noticed that the report (http://fireflyspace.com/assets/files/Firefly%20Alpha%20Technology%20Overview-20170104161054.pdf) linked to the above post is dated 29th Feb 2016 ...
Good catch, how strange to have such a time lag.  It seems to me that the purpose of the commissioned study is obvious: to refute claims of infringement.  But if that is the case and it has been in play for 10 months then it doesn't seem to have worked.    Perhaps the motivation was more of a public service announcement afterall!  Or simply an external review for their own purpose.  Hmmm....
The Schafer report was commissioned to support Firefly/Tom Markusic in their various legal actions, hence the timestamp.

I would guess it's being re-purposed to address their PR issue.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: old_sellsword on 01/25/2017 02:20 AM
If anyone wants to look through a bunch of Firefly images and files, their website's file directory is located here: http://fireflyspace.com/assets/

Along with lots of low-quality renders, I found a third-party "Technology Overview" of Firefly Alpha that I've linked below. Gives a good look into their design process and rationale, along with a few bits of technical information too.

[DIRECT PDF] http://www.fireflyspace.com/assets/files/Firefly%20Alpha%20Technology%20Overview-20170104161054.pdf
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 01/25/2017 10:38 AM
Jeff Foust on Twitter:-

Freilich’s chart on Venture-Class Launch Services, as at AGU, has Firefly crossed off.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 02/19/2017 07:04 PM
I found this review on Glassdoor.

To be balanced there were several positive reviews, but I post this one as it gave some interesting insight e.g. "numerous full company furloughs" and most interestingly, "As of December 1, 2016 company was permenatly shut down."

---

"Was a good place while it lasted”

Former employee - Engineer in Cedar Park, TX (USA)

Doesn't Recommend
Negative Outlook
Disapproves of CEO


I worked full time at Firefly Space Systems (less than 1 year)

Pros

Friendly coworkers, a few office perks, located in a great city, and you get to work on Rockets!! You get a lot of experience in a short time. As of December 1st, company no longer exists.

Cons

Incompetent upper management that could not secure funding due to personal legal issues and lack of faith in Fireflys choice of approaching technical challenges. Never enough money or time to do the engineering required. Lack of concern for employees, numerous full company furloughs and then rehires, then complete layoffs again. No stability or trust in the way the company was being run. Firefly no longer exists as an engineering company as of December 1st.

Advice to Management

Please don't try to resurrect the company, too many lives where destroyed, companies financially burned, and dreams shattered. As of December 1, 2016 company was permenatly shut down.

---

That also sounds like some suppliers were left in the lurch.

Source: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Firefly-Space-Systems-Reviews-E1313222.htm
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: russianhalo117 on 02/21/2017 02:55 PM
It appears in filings with the SEC the company is essentially dead via court ruling in favor of Virgin Galactic. All of FSS's assets will be transferred to VG to either be kept and or liquidated.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Ragmar on 02/21/2017 03:50 PM
It appears in filings with the SEC the company is essentially dead via court ruling in favor of Virgin Galactic. All of FSS's assets will be transferred to VG to either be kept and or liquidated.

Do you happen to have a link to these SEC filings?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: russianhalo117 on 02/21/2017 05:54 PM
Will add more soon

equity sale files: https://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?action=getcompany&CIK=0001602505&type=&dateb=&owner=include&count=100
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 02/21/2017 06:25 PM
Will add more soon

equity sale files: https://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?action=getcompany&CIK=0001602505&type=&dateb=&owner=include&count=100
Eh? Can't see anything new there.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ThePhugoid on 03/11/2017 02:58 AM
I found this review on Glassdoor.

To be balanced there were several positive reviews, but I post this one as it gave some interesting insight e.g. "numerous full company furloughs" and most interestingly, "As of December 1, 2016 company was permenatly shut down."

Source: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Firefly-Space-Systems-Reviews-E1313222.htm

Looks like it may be right.  Their website shows the entire executive team except for Markusic has departed.  LinkedIn search agrees with this.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 03/13/2017 02:16 AM
Quote
Firefly Systems Assets to be Auctioned on Thursday

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2017/03/12/firefly-systems-assets-auctioned-thursday/ (http://www.parabolicarc.com/2017/03/12/firefly-systems-assets-auctioned-thursday/)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 03/13/2017 11:32 AM
Can we put the nail in this coffin of a thread?
 :'(
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 03/13/2017 11:34 AM
Can we put the nail in this coffin of a thread?
 :'(
Plot twist: Management buys all the equipment at knockdown prices, Firefly gets a second series!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: savuporo on 03/13/2017 01:56 PM
Plot twist: new company will be called Ser
Can we put the nail in this coffin of a thread?
 :'(
Plot twist: Management buys all the equipment at knockdown prices, Firefly gets a second series!

They'd have to call the new company Serenity, then
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: gosnold on 03/13/2017 05:47 PM
Plot twist: new company will be called Ser
Can we put the nail in this coffin of a thread?
 :'(
Plot twist: Management buys all the equipment at knockdown prices, Firefly gets a second series!

They'd have to call the new company Serenity, then

Well, apparently Richard Branson can take the sky from you after all.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 03/14/2017 01:53 PM
Probably nobody else read it, but I read the notice of auction.

It is interesting in that it is Max Polyakov who is holding the sale. Basically it looks like he called a $1m note that he bought from Space Florida. And the date on the loan is odd - 20 October 2016, 5 months ago, after they were already in furlough. Was this some kind of backdoor restart?

Also, according to the notice they will sell all the assets as a block, not piecemeal. To inspect the goods or bid you need to deposit $100K at latest 24 hours before the auction - but the public notice only came out 3 days before the auction. The short timeline puts external bidders at a disadvantage, because nobody can in reality inspect and deposit in that timeframe.

I suspect that somebody has a plan to acquire all their gear and assets on the cheap. Picking up expensive assets for pennies is, after all, a time-proven technique to profitability:-

http://www.airspacemag.com/space/the-rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-iridium-5615034/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 03/14/2017 08:08 PM
I suspect that somebody has a plan to acquire all their gear and assets on the cheap. Picking up expensive assets for pennies is, after all a time-proven technique to profitability:-
Polyakov recently (Jan 27th) founded a company call EOS launcher Inc. They don't have a website yet, but according to his LinkedIn profile they plan to build their own orbital LVs, among other things.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: russianhalo117 on 03/14/2017 09:12 PM
I suspect that somebody has a plan to acquire all their gear and assets on the cheap. Picking up expensive assets for pennies is, after all a time-proven technique to profitability:-
Polyakov recently (Jan 27th) founded a company call EOS launcher Inc. They don't have a website yet, but according to his LinkedIn profile they plan to build their own orbital LVs, among other things.
Virgin Galactic is also attending by what i hear from some people.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 03/14/2017 09:18 PM
Virgin Galactic is also attending by what i hear from some people.

I am surprised they haven't injuncted the sell off to be honest.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 03/14/2017 09:23 PM
Polyakov recently (Jan 27th) founded a company call EOS launcher Inc. They don't have a website yet, but according to his LinkedIn profile they plan to build their own orbital LVs, among other things.

Well well well, founded Feb 21...

https://cacompany.org/co.php?id=03996203

Company Details
Company number:    C3996203
Name:    EOS LAUNCHER, INC.
Incorporation date:    2/21/2017
Type:    Foreign Stock
Active Status:    Active
Registered Office Address:    1906 EL CAMINO REAL STE 201, MENLO PARK, CA  94027

Same address as the auction:-

http://www.dsiassignments.biz/cases_doc/97/Notice%20of%20Public%20Disposition%20of%20Collateral.pdf
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: strangequark on 03/15/2017 12:58 AM
Same address as his VC firm as well. Did you notice that there was a company called Voyager Holdings Limited that was an assignor to EOS Launcher? Is that linked to Virgin/Scaled at all?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 03/15/2017 02:59 AM
Well now we know what to do with the thread...  Just rename the title, and steady as she goes!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: QuantumG on 03/15/2017 03:55 AM
Well now we know what to do with the thread...  Just rename the title, and steady as she goes!

It works for NASA.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ChrisWilson68 on 03/15/2017 04:35 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.  Unless they're just waiting for the right time -- let the transaction go through, then sue everyone involved for even more money.

Or, there's more going on here.  Maybe there's a deal with VG to sell off the assets at this price.  Maybe VG has a stake in the new company.  Who knows.

One way or another, I don't think VG is going to get the short end of this without a fight.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 03/15/2017 07:03 AM
Well now we know what to do with the thread...  Just rename the title, and steady as she goes!

It works for NASA.
:)
I didn't see this one coming.

Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 03/15/2017 07:06 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.  Unless they're just waiting for the right time -- let the transaction go through, then sue everyone involved for even more money.

Or, there's more going on here.  Maybe there's a deal with VG to sell off the assets at this price.  Maybe VG has a stake in the new company.  Who knows.

One way or another, I don't think VG is going to get the short end of this without a fight.
Would have been cool to have gone down there to hang out and pick up some gossip.

Didn't think of it in time.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 03/15/2017 07:08 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.  Unless they're just waiting for the right time -- let the transaction go through, then sue everyone involved for even more money.

Or, there's more going on here.  Maybe there's a deal with VG to sell off the assets at this price.  Maybe VG has a stake in the new company.  Who knows.

One way or another, I don't think VG is going to get the short end of this without a fight.
Would have been cool to have gone down there to hang out and pick up some gossip.

Didn't think of it in time.
Auction is tomorrow...
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 03/15/2017 07:09 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.  Unless they're just waiting for the right time -- let the transaction go through, then sue everyone involved for even more money.

Or, there's more going on here.  Maybe there's a deal with VG to sell off the assets at this price.  Maybe VG has a stake in the new company.  Who knows.

One way or another, I don't think VG is going to get the short end of this without a fight.
Would have been cool to have gone down there to hang out and pick up some gossip.

Didn't think of it in time.
Auction is tomorrow...
I thought it just passed.  Menlo Park, yes?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 03/15/2017 07:11 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.  Unless they're just waiting for the right time -- let the transaction go through, then sue everyone involved for even more money.

Or, there's more going on here.  Maybe there's a deal with VG to sell off the assets at this price.  Maybe VG has a stake in the new company.  Who knows.

One way or another, I don't think VG is going to get the short end of this without a fight.
Would have been cool to have gone down there to hang out and pick up some gossip.

Didn't think of it in time.
Auction is tomorrow...
I thought it just passed.  Menlo Park, yes?
Yes. Address is above. You don't need to desposit 100k to show up, just to bid, so keep your hands in your pockets!
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 03/15/2017 07:13 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.

I don't know how the law works in these parts - are all creditors treated equally or is there some sort of pecking order where certain creditors get priority over others? For example, in the U.K. I believe employees still owed wages get preference over some other creditors.

However, I agree that it's more likely there's some deal here with VG. Surely it's obvious to everyone that they wouldn't just standby and ignore what they're owed?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 03/15/2017 07:23 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.

I don't know how the law works in these parts - are all creditors treated equally or is there some sort of pecking order where certain creditors get priority over others? For example, in the U.K. I believe employees still owed wages get preference over some other creditors.

However, I agree that it's more likely there's some deal here with VG. Surely it's obvious to everyone that they wouldn't just standby and ignore what they're owed?
Well that is an interesting point. What are they owed? Has there been a judgement settling damages? They have an arbitration against Markusic personally from his employment and are suing other Firefly founders for damages but as far as I am aware there hasn't been a settlement or judgement. They did go to arbitration in the latter suit but nothing has come out yet.

And there is usually a debt/equity pecking order, secured senior debt being first in line. This matter is the secured senior debt holder calling his collateralized loan.

Maybe, just maybe, it is a way to circumvent any claim on Firefly? This auction shells the company - VG would win a phyrrhic victory, and the loan owner (who is not being sued as far as I can see) gets the assets at a knock down price to start again.

The loan date is really the key bit of data: 20 October 2016. At that point they had basically shut down. News articles came out on October 3. And a couple of weeks later that note gets signed. That date looks like somebody had a clever idea.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: TrevorMonty on 03/15/2017 08:01 AM
VG is suing for IP not assets. As long as the assets are not engines, VG doesn't need to be involved.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 03/15/2017 08:09 AM
VG is suing for IP not assets. As long as the assets are not engines, VG doesn't need to be involved.

But they were claiming substantial damages. I take the point that no such damages have been awarded/agreed yet (I wrongly thought they had). So either this auction is a way to get the assets legally transferred and cut VG out or there is some sort of agreement. I'm now thinking the former.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: john smith 19 on 03/15/2017 08:44 AM
Something doesn't add up here.  It looks like some kind of maneuver to get the assets out from the clutches of Virgin Galactic on the cheap.  But that would be illegal, and VG would certainly fight it.  Unless they're just waiting for the right time -- let the transaction go through, then sue everyone involved for even more money.
That sounds about right. The short notice (days, not weeks), the $100K buy in at least 24 hrs ahead (given only a few days notice).  Looks like an attempt to rig the deal so he's the only viable bidder.

BTW Intellectual Property is an asset of a company so if Makusic assigned or transferred anything to Firefly then presumably VG would still have a claim on it.
Quote from: ChrisWilson68
Or, there's more going on here.  Maybe there's a deal with VG to sell off the assets at this price.  Maybe VG has a stake in the new company.  Who knows.

One way or another, I don't think VG is going to get the short end of this without a fight.
No. I don't think this has escaped VG's notice. If the auction is not held up it's likely VG either have a stake in the new company or they are bidding their time till their legal team can pounce.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 03/15/2017 11:37 AM
Jeff Foust's write-up of the auction contains some interesting background:

http://spacenews.com/firefly-space-systems-assets-to-be-sold/ (http://spacenews.com/firefly-space-systems-assets-to-be-sold/)

Quote
EOS Launcher, though, reserved the right to bid without making an advance deposit.

Quote
EOS Launcher approached the agency [Space Florida] and agreed to buy the promissory note at face value. [$1 million]
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: meekGee on 03/15/2017 06:43 PM
bah.  full day today, no party crashing for me.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: mme on 03/15/2017 10:10 PM
VG is suing for IP not assets. As long as the assets are not engines, VG doesn't need to be involved.
Does anyone no the IP that VG claimed was stolen? Last I was aware Firefly was building a reusable, liquid propellent, VTVL smallsat launcher.  VG is building an air launched, horizontal landing, hybid and VO is building an air launched, solid propellent, expendable.

I guess the all use composites and there would be flight control software...

Edit: My mistake, not sure where I got the idea that LauncherOne was using solids.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Kryten on 03/15/2017 10:34 PM
Does anyone no the IP that VG claimed was stolen? Last I was aware Firefly was building a reusable, liquid propellent, VTVL smallsat launcher.  VG is building an air launched, horizontal landing, hybid and VO is building an air launched, solid propellent, expendable.
LauncherOne is actually kerolox for both stages, and as far as we know the stolen information pertained to propulsion.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: russianhalo117 on 03/15/2017 10:39 PM
Does anyone no the IP that VG claimed was stolen? Last I was aware Firefly was building a reusable, liquid propellent, VTVL smallsat launcher.  VG is building an air launched, horizontal landing, hybid and VO is building an air launched, solid propellent, expendable.
LauncherOne is actually kerolox for both stages, and as far as we know the stolen information pertained to propulsion.
it is my understanding that VG sought a gag order and NDA of those involved in the lawsuit. I do not know if the motions were granted by the court.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: mme on 03/15/2017 10:53 PM
Does anyone no the IP that VG claimed was stolen? Last I was aware Firefly was building a reusable, liquid propellent, VTVL smallsat launcher.  VG is building an air launched, horizontal landing, hybid and VO is building an air launched, solid propellent, expendable.
LauncherOne is actually kerolox for both stages, and as far as we know the stolen information pertained to propulsion.
Thanks, not sure where my bad head cannon came from. :/
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Toast on 03/15/2017 10:58 PM
Does anyone no the IP that VG claimed was stolen?

Designs for aerospike engines (http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/missions/commercial/firefly-space-systems-burns/).
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Ragmar on 03/20/2017 01:19 PM
Any update on how the auction went down?

There are rumors that the auction was so restricted so that EOS Launchers could secure all of Firefly's assets for as little as possible.  This would allow for EOS to practically continue Firefly's work, or at least some of it.  Since EOS' head is a non-US citizen, they would reportedly employ some of the Firefly personnel to overcome the ITAR-related issues.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Davidthefat on 03/20/2017 03:11 PM
Does anyone no the IP that VG claimed was stolen? Last I was aware Firefly was building a reusable, liquid propellent, VTVL smallsat launcher.  VG is building an air launched, horizontal landing, hybid and VO is building an air launched, solid propellent, expendable.
LauncherOne is actually kerolox for both stages, and as far as we know the stolen information pertained to propulsion.
Thanks, not sure where my bad head cannon came from. :/

Mistaken identity with Orbital ATK's Pegasus rocket? Similar air launch scheme.
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Proponent on 03/20/2017 08:59 PM
There are rumors that the auction was so restricted so that EOS Launchers could secure all of Firefly's assets for as little as possible.  This would allow for EOS to practically continue Firefly's work, or at least some of it.

Presumably, EOS would not be able to use the disputed IP, right?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: MechE31 on 03/30/2017 04:33 PM
Per Jeff Foust on twitter, Firefly test site to be auctioned on 4/4 on the courthouse steps.

http://www.burnetcountytexas.org/users/0005/Foreclosures/firefly%20systems%20inc.pdf
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/16/2017 05:25 AM
FireFly's bankruptcy filing: 

https://www.inforuptcy.com/filings/txwbke_318762-1-17-bk-10387-firefly-systems-inc (https://www.inforuptcy.com/filings/txwbke_318762-1-17-bk-10387-firefly-systems-inc)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/03/2017 03:32 PM
Can anyone confirm?

Quote
A smallsat launcher called Firefly Aerospace has been formed as its predecessor, @Firefly_Space, is being dissolved. http://goo.gl/Y8Yjgd

https://twitter.com/satfinance/status/859530863327010817 (https://twitter.com/satfinance/status/859530863327010817)

(The link in the tweet is behind a paywall.)
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 05/03/2017 03:43 PM
Can anyone confirm?

Quote
A smallsat launcher called Firefly Aerospace has been formed as its predecessor, @Firefly_Space, is being dissolved. http://goo.gl/Y8Yjgd

https://twitter.com/satfinance/status/859530863327010817 (https://twitter.com/satfinance/status/859530863327010817)

(The link in the tweet is behind a paywall.)
https://www.texas-register.com/0802690039-firefly-aerospace-inc

https://trademarks.justia.com/874/02/firefly-87402394.html
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Craftyatom on 05/03/2017 05:46 PM
Can anyone confirm?

Quote
A smallsat launcher called Firefly Aerospace has been formed as its predecessor, @Firefly_Space, is being dissolved. http://goo.gl/Y8Yjgd

https://twitter.com/satfinance/status/859530863327010817 (https://twitter.com/satfinance/status/859530863327010817)

(The link in the tweet is behind a paywall.)
https://www.texas-register.com/0802690039-firefly-aerospace-inc

https://trademarks.justia.com/874/02/firefly-87402394.html

Note that the new title has nothing to do with a (drastic) change in direction - the company is still cited as looking to perform (per the second link)
Quote
Launch services, namely, launching the payloads of others into space; launch and placement in space of satellites and spacecraft of others
and
Quote
Design services in the field of space launch vehicles
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Ragmar on 05/03/2017 07:34 PM
Anyone have access to the stuff behind the paywall?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: ringsider on 05/15/2017 06:17 AM
Can we have a new thread for the revamped Firefly Aerospace fork please?
Title: Re: Introducing Firefly Space Systems
Post by: Lar on 07/19/2017 04:03 PM
New thread for revamped Firefly Aerospace is here:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=43326

This one now locked unless there is more to say (report to mod with unlock request explaining what you want to add and why)