Firefly launches US Space Force mission in 24-hour timeline

The US Space Force's 'Victus Nox' mission launched aboard a Firefly Alpha rocket that lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.
Chris Young
The Firefly Alpha FLTA003 VICTUS NOX launch.
The Firefly Alpha FLTA003 VICTUS NOX launch.

Firefly Aerospace, Inc. 

The US Space Force announced in a press statement today, September 15, that Firefly Aerospace successfully launched a Millennium Space satellite yesterday.

That mission launched on an incredibly short 24-hour timeline, showcasing the capability for rapid deployment of national security missions.

"Led by U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command's (SSC) Space Safari Program Office and in close partnership with the Rocket Systems Launch Program, the mission advances the nation's capability to rapidly respond to on-orbit needs during a conflict or in response to a national security threat," the press statement reads.

A 24-hour launch timeline

The US Space Force mission, called Victus Nox, launched to orbit aboard a Firefly Alpha rocket that lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, at 7:28 pm Pacific. Due to the nature of the mission, the government requested Firefly not to livestream the launch.

The Firefly Alpha rocket deployed the Millenium Space Systems satellite at its target destination in low Earth orbit shortly after launch. The company also successfully tested an Alpha stage two relight and targeted re-entry during the mission.

"Today was an incredible success for the Space Force, the Firefly team, and our nation after nailing this complex responsive space mission," Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace, explained in the statement. "Our combined commercial and government team executed the mission with record speed, agility, and flexibility, adding a critical capability to address national security needs."

Within 24 hours after receiving the notice to launch, Firefly completed launch preparations, including trajectory software updates, payload encapsulation, and fueling.

Firefly and Millenium on "hot standby" since August

Firefly and Millenium were selected last year for the Victus Nox mission. On August 30, both companies announced they were on "hot standby" for the mission and could receive an alert from the Space Force at any time.

When they did get notice, the teams transported the Alpha rocket 165 miles from Millennium’s El Segundo facility to Vandenberg Space Force Base, where it was tested, fueled, and mated to the launch adapter.

"I'm incredibly proud of this team for completing these critical mission milestones and successfully launching in a matter of hours rather than weeks or months in a typical operation," Adam Oakes, VP of Launch Vehicles at Firefly Aerospace, explained. "As our third flight, this mission further validates Firefly's technology rigor, passion, and dedication that's required to prevail as the leading responsive launch provider for both government and commercial customers."

Firefly had 24 hours to get Alpha ready for launch. It was ready within that window and flew to orbit just 27 hours after the company received the call. The rocket flew for the first time on October 1, 2022, for a flight demonstration mission called "Alpha Flight 2: To The Black."

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