Firefly Space Systems said it has successfully tested its first rocket engine, Firefly Rocket Engine Research 1 (FRE-R1).
Firefly is developing one combustor design that will be utilized to power both stages of their small-sat launcher, Firefly Alpha. The Alpha upper stage will utilize an engine (FRE-1) with a single combustor, whereas the first stage engine (FRE-2) will use an array of twelve of the same combustors arranged in an annular aerospike configuration.
FRE-R1 is a propulsion pathfinder for both stages of Alpha. It operates using LOx/RP-1 propellants, but the basic combustor design can utilize either methane or RP-1 fuels. The upper stage variant of the engine (FRE-1) will produce 7,000 lbf thrust, and the first stage cluster used in FRE-2 will produce 125,000 lbf thrust.
The first test series successfully demonstrated startup, shutdown, and steady state combustion. The test also served to prove the complete functionality of Firefly´s new test site. Upcoming engine tests will emphasize performance tuning and longer duration “mission duty cycle” runs. The first hot-fire tests of the FRE-2 aerospike engine are expected to take place in early 2016.
Firefly is a small satellite launch company located in Cedar Park, TX which was created to provide low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the under-served small satellite market, where secondary-payload launches are often the only option. The Firefly team consists of highly experienced aerospace engineers that have spent the better part of the past decade working at NASA and various New Space companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.