Look inside Firefly Space as the rocket builder prepares for the second launch

Space company Firefly is gearing up for the second orbital launch attempt of its Alpha rocket, as the company seeks to lay the groundwork for its business.

“Firefly aims to be the next SpaceX, a very transformative space transportation company,” Firefly CEO Tom Markusic told CNBC.

The company recently gave CNBC an overview of its manufacturing and testing facilities near Austin, Texas, as well as during its first Alpha rocket launch in September.

“The rocket gives you the keys to space. It’s extremely important, but the bulk of the income is doing things in space,” Markusic said.

Markusic – whose background includes leadership roles at Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX – compared the lunar lander Firefly builds, called Blue Ghost, to SpaceX’s Dragon capsule series, which transports goods and people. in low earth orbit. While Firefly’s Alpha rocket costs $ 15 million per launch, Markusic says the lunar lander is much more lucrative per mission.

“Blue Ghost, fully loaded with payload, can generate approximately $ 150 million in revenue for the company,” said Markusic.

Firefly Aerospace CEO Tom Markusic stands in front of the company’s Alpha rocket at SLC-2 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Andrew Evers | CNBC

As the first Alpha launch in September reached several milestones for the company, an electrical problem shut down one of the rocket’s four motors and resulted in an intentionally explosive end about two minutes after the flight began.

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket explodes in a fireball in the sky over California after launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base on September 2, 2021.

Andrew Evers | CNBC

Undeterred, Firefly plans to make a second attempt in early 2022, with orbit reaching orbit and the start of scheduled flights critical to the company’s goals, explained Lauren Lyons, Firefly’s COO.

“We want to launch 24 rockets in 2024,” Lyons said. “One of the things that’s going to help us get to that cadence is to fly our next flight as soon as possible and the next one as soon as possible and start conquering that learning curve as fast as possible so that we can get in. in the constructed repeatable. “

Firefly currently spends around $ 10 million a month, Markusic said, and he wants his income to solidify “before it goes public.” The company has raised over $ 200 million in venture capital to date.

“I don’t want to use the IPO as another way to fund development,” Markusic told CNBC. “I think that’s a possibility this time next year we could talk about a public offering from Firefly.”

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