WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Systems Command announced Sept. 30 it selected Firefly Space Transport Services and Millennium Space Systems to conduct a demonstration of a rapid-response space mission to low Earth orbit in 2023.

The companies will perform a Tactically Responsive Space (TacRS) mission as part of a broader effort by the U.S. Space Force to accelerate the timeline for deploying payloads to orbit. 

Firefly Space Transport Services, a subsidiary of Firefly Aerospace, operates the expendable Alpha small-satellite launcher. 

The Space Force’s announcement on the TacRS contract came just a few hours before Firefly’s Alpha performed its first successful orbital launch, sending three small satellites to low Earth orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, in the overnight hours Oct. 1. 

Millennium Space Systems, a subsidiary of the Boeing Co., manufactures small satellites in El Segundo, California.

Firefly and Millennium won contracts for the TacRS-3 mission, a space domain awareness small satellite projected to launch in 2023. The companies received task-orders under the Space Force Orbital Services Program (OSP)-4, an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract for rapid acquisition of launch services. 

Firefly will be responsible for launch services, and Millennium for the delivery of the space and ground systems. The order includes the spacecraft bus, sensor payload, space vehicle integration, ground segment, and on-orbit operations.

“Both contract actions are integral to the end-to-end operational demonstration,” the Space Systems Command said. 

The command did not disclose the value of the task orders.

TacRS-3 will “demonstrate the United States’ ability to rapidly place an asset on-orbit when and where we need it, ensuring we can augment our space capabilities with very little notice,” said Lt. Col. MacKenzie Birchenough, materiel leader at the Space Safari office, which oversees the responsive launch program.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...