Maxim Polyakov’s Aerospace Company to Launch Small Vehicles at Vandenberg in 2019
Max Polyakov and Firefly Aerospace received “A Statement of Support” from the U.S. Air Force, which announced that the Vandenberg Air Force Base is aimed to become a pad for Alpha and Beta small launch vehicles. Before the start of the cooperation, some agreements need to be finalized between Vandenberg and United Launch Alliance. Thus, the company’s Delta 2 vehicle is going to have its final launch this September carrying a NASA science satellite.
According to Max Polyakov, Firefly launches are planned for the third quarter of 2019. Brad Obrocto, the director of Firefly launch operations, admitted that a wide range of requirements is needed to be complete before the launches. Soon after Delta 2 is launched, the modernizing of the existing infrastructure will start. Needless to say, it is much simpler to maintain existing infrastructure with the minimum rework for Alpha launches, than to build a new pad from scratch, which can take years. The changes will not be extensive. The most notable one is a launch pedestal installation for the transporter erector of the vehicle. Firefly is going to collaborate with NASA and USAF partners in order to make a successful transition.
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Max Polyakov’s Firefly constructed the Alpha engine as a 2-stage vehicle that uses liquid kerosene and oxygen engines developed by the company. The capacity of Alpha allows it to take about 630 kilos to a sun-synchronous 500-kilometer orbit that can be accessed from the SLC-2W pad. Besides this one, the engine needs another site so that it can deliver nearly 1,000 kilos to low-inclination orbits. In comparison to other launch vehicles in the small class, the Alpha payload capacities demonstrate higher performance. Tom Markusic, CEO of Firefly Aerospace, claims that the engine is a sweet spot for clients. From the very beginning, Alpha was destined to compete with India’s satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) which is popular nowadays. Max Polyakov’s Firefly Aerospace, and particularly Tom Markusic, believe that if the cost is about the same in the comparison to India’s analog, Alpha will definitely be a success.
Besides the Alpha, Max Polyakov’s Firefly is developing one more launch vehicle named Beta. There are many similarities when comparing Alpha and Beta. Beta is more advanced and utilizes two additional booster cores similar to the Falcon Heavy or ULA’s Delta 4 Heavy. The beta will be capable of carrying about 4,000 kilos to low orbit and 400 kilos to geostationary orbit. SLC-2W is not modified to support Beta yet, and there are no agreements about the place of launching for low-inclination orbits at the time. A decision is expected to be made shortly, says Max Polyakov.