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.”


Firefly, the leading small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX 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 customers.