Firefly Aerospace: A Brief Technical History

23 miles outside Austin, Texas in Cedar Park, there is a an unassuming office park with a construction company, an air conditioning supplier, and the Northpoint church. If you parked your car in the lot for Sunday mass, you might see an unusual amount of cars parked outside Firefly Aerospace. Inside, men and women are working around the clock, building the next commercial launch vehicle to ferry small satellites into orbit, and eventually the moon. Texas has a long history of headquartering American space efforts. Houston, Texas was home to NASA’s mission control during the Apollo Era and is currently used for International Space Station communications. SpaceX has a facility in McGregor, Tex

SpaceX on track for Cargo Dragon launch after Crew Dragon anomaly

Two days ago, SpaceX was running a series of static fire tests of their Crew Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry astronauts back to the ISS. This was the same Dragon that launched back in March and visited the International Space Station for a few days before returning to Earth. SpaceX had planned on reusing this spacecraft on the In Flight Abort test, where it would test its abort system during launch to ensure safety in the event of an anamoly. During these static fire tests of the abort system, there was an anamoly just prior to igniting the engines that caused and explosion and loss of the vehicle. A leaked video showed Crew Dragon on the test stand counting down to ignition and an expl

Liftoff for Cygnus!

Photo: NASA 2014 Northrop Grumman had a successful launch of their Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 4:46 PM EDT. On board the Antares is the Cygnus spacecraft, which is carrying almost 7,600 pounds of NASA cargo to the International Space Station with supplies and experiments for the crew on board. The Antares rocket is designed to be an inexpensive way to launch cargo into space, with the ability to carry up to 8,000 kilograms (or over 17,600 pounds) of cargo into low Earth orbit. So what happens after the launch? The Cygnus spacecraft will go into a low Earth orbit, or LEO, and autonomously bring itself to the International Space Station so that the robotic

Northrup Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft will launch to the ISS today

This afternoon, at 4:46pm EDT, Northrup Grumman will be launching the Cygnus spacecraft on their Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will be launching on the Antares 230 rocket, which features RD-181 engines with increased performance an flexibility. This will be the last time the Antares 230 configuration will launch, as they are getting ready to debut the Antares 230+, which will have significant upgrades to the strcuture of the vehicle and also have a higher mass-to-orbit capability. The Castor 30XL solid rocket second stage is also being optimized for the 230+ by making the structure of the motor case lighter. The Cygnus spacecraft on this mission will del

Falcon Heavy completes its first commericial mission

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the ArabSat 6A payload for ArabSat. Falcon Heavy launched at 6:35pm EDT flying off the pad on its way out of the atmosphere. The rocket performed nominally without any issues and delivered the satellite successfully into its intended orbit. This is the first time that SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket completed a launch for a customer, which opened the door to being a reliable rocket. Both side boosters of Falcon Heavy successfully flew back on a guided descent back to the Cape and sticking the landing on both landing zones, sending booms across the surrounding area. The c

Falcon Heavy postponed until Thursday due to high winds

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket stood down for launch today due to high upper level winds. The launch kept getting pushed back into the window and sat waiting at the end in case the winds improved. Fueling never started so the launch was considered postponed instead of scrubbed. Weather was predicted to be 80% go, but these weather forecasts don't include upper level winds as they can be unpredictable. The threat that high Upper Levels Winds poses to rockets is that it can veer the rocket off the plotted trajectory that it tries to stay on. If winds are aggressive enough, it could slam into the rocket like a sledgehammer and cause it to tilt past its limits and disintigrate. Weather balloons ar

Falcon Heavy is back and better than before

Last year, SpaceX debuted their Falcon Heavy for the first time on February 6th, 2018, carrying Elon's Tesla Roadster as the test payload. The main event of that launch was the successful landing and recovery of the side boosters, which landed nearly simultaneously back at the two concrete landing zones SpaceX had constructed. Since then, the Tesla roadster has completed 3/4ths of its orbit and SpaceX hasn't launched another Falcon Heavy, why is that? The next scheduled launch of Falcon Heavy was supposed to be STP-2, launching in June of 2018, but got pushed back to next year. Just about 3 months after the debut of Falcon Heavy, SpaceX rolled out their brand new "Block 5" varient of the Fal

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