Lauren Lyons
Lauren Lyons, seen here with Firefly CEO Tom Markusic, will be the company's new COO after working at SpaceX and Blue Origin. Credit: Alex Mora

WASHINGTON — Firefly Aerospace has hired a former SpaceX and Blue Origin engineer as its new chief operating officer to guide the company’s shift from development to production, although exactly when the company’s first launch will take place remains unclear.

Firefly announced Aug. 17 that Lauren Lyons will become chief operating officer of the company, based in Cedar Park, Texas. Lyons spent several years at SpaceX on the Dragon, Falcon 9 and Starlink programs, and most recently was a lead systems engineer in the advanced concepts group at Blue Origin. At SpaceX she also appeared regularly on the company’s webcasts, including for the Demo-2 commercial crew test flight in 2020.

The company said that Lyons will focus on “transitioning Firefly from an R&D environment to a production environment” for its Alpha small launch vehicle, Space Utility Vehicle tug and Blue Ghost lunar lander.

“Firefly is entering a pivotal and exciting phase of its growth,” Lyons said in the statement. “I’m thrilled to take on the challenge of leading the efforts in scaling the company’s infrastructure to support rapid growth, high execution rate, and deliver exceptional value and service to our customers.”

Firefly is also getting into the components business. The company said it will offer the engines it developed for its Alpha vehicle to other customers. “Initial demand has been strong, with external orders already exceeding the quantity of engines that Firefly was building for use on its own launch vehicle, Alpha,” Eric Salwan, chief revenue officer of Firefly, said in an Aug. 6 statement, but did not disclose the number of engines sold or the customers for them.

Those engines have yet to take flight on Alpha or any other launch vehicle. Firefly shipped the first Alpha rocket to Vandenberg Space Force Base earlier this year and performed pad testing but has not disclosed a date for its launch. Firefly spokesperson Kim Jennett said the company is not publicizing a launch date but that “things are getting close.”

At a July 7 teleconference by the Future In Space Operations group, Salwan said the company was waiting on a single unspecified component for its flight termination system. “Once we have that, we’re going to roll into the launch campaign and hopefully we’ll be launching here within the next couple of months.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...