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

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.

Firefly rocket engines operate using LOx/RP-1 propellants and 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.

This combustor test successfully demonstrated Firefly’s regeneratively cooled flight weight engine firing for the full mission duty cycle of 163 seconds required for the first stage of Firefly’s Alpha rocket. The test also served to further validate the complete functionality of Firefly’s test site in preparation for a full 12 combustor aerospike test scheduled for the end of 2016.

Full video of the MDC test can be viewed at:

“In less than three years, we have built our Texas team to over 160 world-class engineers, 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 composite tanks, avionics and engines,” added Markusic.

“I’m incredibly proud of our hard-working and innovative Firefly team. They are a testament to the entrepreneurial vision of newspace and the amazing achievements that can be accomplished by a group of intelligent, motivated people in a short period of time.”


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 constellations.