Firefly Aerospace advances toward late 2019 launch

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ORLANDO, Fla., April 29 (UPI) — Texas-based Firefly Aerospace said Monday it successfully test-fired the second stage of its Firefly Alpha rocket in a five-minute hot fire to prepare for a planned launch later this year.

The company called the test a “milestone” in its quest for flight qualification of the launch vehicle.

The company is building a rocket plant near Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its upcoming launch is set to occur at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“The length of the test successfully demonstrates the capability of the integrated system — flight avionics, structures, and propulsion systems — to operate for the duration of a flight mission,” the firm said in a statement.

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Firefly Aerospace will join SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, satellite manufacturer OneWeb and a cluster of smaller companies that have kicked off a new chapter in American space exploration.

Firefly will make smaller orbital launch rockets across the street from OneWeb’s new satellite plant. It intends to offer launches for small satellites at cheaper rates than SpaceX or United Launch Alliance’s bigger rockets.

The company also plans a bigger rocket, Firefly Beta, and a possible space plane, Firefly Gamma. It previously told the state’s marketing agency for space, Space Florida, that it plans to invest $52 million into its plant and new launchpad facilities.

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