Even though Firefly Aerospace is only a few weeks removed from its first-ever launch attempt, the Texas-based space business is already making solid progress toward its maiden mission to land on the Moon.
Firefly announced Monday that it has completed the critical design review phase of its program to create a lunar lander. This implies that the corporation may now develop and order components for the Blue Ghost spaceship, as well as begin assembly. Firefly plans to launch the spacecraft as the main payload on a Falcon 9 rocket in the fall of 2023.
NASA is funding the trip as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program, which pays commercial businesses to send scientific experiments to the Moon. NASA is financing $93.3 million for the Blue Ghost mission, which will deliver ten payloads to the Mare Crisium lunar region in September 2023.
According to Blue Ghost’s principal engineer, we went through the key design review process in eight months, which is a pretty rapid pace for launching anything to the surface of the Moon.
The lander is around the size of a huge human, standing about 2 meters tall, and capable of transporting 155 kilograms of cargo to the Moon’s surface. Firefly will have had roughly 2.5 years from the time NASA commissioned the project to develop and manufacture the lander, according to Coogan.
He is especially enthused by the spacecraft’s ability to broadcast high-definition video from the Moon’s surface at a rate of 10 megabits per second. One camera at the spacecraft’s apex will be programmed to follow Earth as it travels over the Moon and its eclipse as it sets beyond the horizon. Coogan stated that he is thrilled to share such a picture of our home planet with the rest of the globe.
NASA has chosen six missions as part of the innovative commercial lunar payload program thus far. The first two of these, created separately by Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, might deploy in 2022. If Blue Ghost sticks to its manufacturing timeline, it will be the third or fourth private US mission to land on the Moon.
Firefly began as a launch firm, attempting its maiden Alpha rocket launch in early September. The rocket failed after one of its first-stage engines went down just seconds after launch, but the business is already planning a second try. The business intends to transfer components for its second flight to the launch site at Vandenberg Space Force Base in December and may try a launch as early as January 2022.
Because the company’s rocket production process is very vertically integrated, creating Blue Ghost has been a problem because it depends more heavily on external partners, according to Markusic. Flight Control, for example, is a Ukrainian business that is building the spacecraft’s engines. And the supply chain problems that have afflicted other sectors have also afflicted the aircraft industry.
Although Markusic started Firefly to launch rockets, he has understood that to expand in the space sector, a company must do more than just launch. SpaceX, for example, has expanded beyond launch with its Dragon spacecraft and Starlink satellite operations.
So, in addition to working on a bigger rocket and the Blue Ghost lander, Firefly is also creating an in-space utility vehicle. The privately-owned firm completed a round of Series A investment earlier this year and plans to raise an additional $100 million or more by the first quarter of 2023 to finance its ongoing development efforts.