Technology

Firefly targets summer launch, unveils plans for lunar delivery service

  • A rendering of Firefly's Genesis Moon lander. Firefly
  • A look at the company's Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV. Firefly
  • A cutaway of Firefly's Alpha rocket payload fairing showing a primary payload with the OTV at the bottom. Firefly
  • A close-up view of the OTV at the bottom of the payload fairing. Firefly
  • A wider view of the rendering showing Genesis landing on the Moon. Firefly
  • It will take two months to reach the lunar surface after launch. Firefly
  • And here are places to put your payload on the Genesis lander. Firefly

NASA's Artemis plan to return humans to the surface of the Moon has gotten the lion's share of public attention over the last year, but the space agency's innovative program to deliver material to the surface of the Moon has arguably spurred more commercial activity.

The Commercial Lunar Services Program (or CLPS, which rhymes with chips) has put $2.8 billion on the table for delivery services. Over the next decade, a pool of more than a dozen companies is eligible to bid for contracts to deliver scientific instruments to the surface of the Moon. As an added benefit, NASA is helping to stimulate a cislunar economy.

Tom Markusic, founder of Firefly, said he sees the CLPS program as analogous to NASA's plan in 2006 to stimulate develop of private supply vehicles for the International Space Station. This program provided several hundred million dollars to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, which resulted in development of the Falcon 9 and Antares launch vehicles, as well as the Cargo Dragon and Cygnus supply ships.

"I see CLPS as a contemporary opportunity," Markusic said in an interview. "For Firefly, I saw this as something we had to go for."

Markusic worked at SpaceX in 2006 when the then-small company won a cargo development contract, and he saw first-hand how the NASA funding helped transform the small rocket company into a dominant player in launch and beyond. The Dragon spacecraft became mission critical to SpaceX, and in the same way, Markusic said Firefly needs to diversify beyond its Alpha rocket.

Launch, he said, is only worth about $10 billion of the overall space industry valued at $350 billion. Having plans beyond launch helps with Markusic's pitch to investors when explaining how Firefly's business can scale. "Building a launch vehicle gives you the keys to space," Markusic said. "But if you want to tap into the full revenue potential of space, you have to have a spacecraft as well."

So Firefly has designed its spacecraft, and this week the company confirmed it has submitted a bid for the CLPS program's fourth task order, 19C, to deliver scientific instruments to one of the lunar poles. The deadline for bids was early March, and NASA is expected to award contracts some time in April. That would leave about 2.5 years for companies to deliver on a lunar mission to be launched in the latter half of 2022.

OTV and Genesis

Firefly is proceeding with development of both an Orbital Transfer Vehicle, or OTV, and a Genesis lander to take payloads down to the surface of the Moon. This may seem like a lot for a company to take on in addition to rocket development, but Firefly has sought to leverage existing capabilities.

To power its OTV vehicle, Firefly has Read More – Source

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