Firefly Space Systems burns out?
Firefly Space Systems, a NewSpace launch service provider that was founded in 2014 by Tom Markusic P.J. King and Michael Blum, has been developing the Firefly Alpha rocket which uses an aerospike engine cluster to deliver 400 kg payloads to LEO. They have been under legal pressure from Virgin Galactic regarding allegedly stolen intellectual property for aerospike engine designs.
The legal battle took a turn in Virgin Galactic’s favor earlier this month when the arbitrator in the case (case no. 01-12-0002-2467) made a terminating sanctions ruling determining that Markusic did take Virgin Galactic trade secrets, destroyed evidence, impeded the arbitration process, and transferred Virgin Galactic confidential information to Firefly computers. This ruling makes any further legal action by Virgin Galactic much simpler as they no longer have to prove Markusic took their confidential information.
Things appeared to be going well at Firefly before this ruling, with a high volume of new hiring going on, a $5.5 million Venture class launch services contract with NASA, test firings of their engine, and a successful raise of $19 million in funding. Things may have changed with a statement posted to Twitter today on their @Firefly_Space account stating they have “experienced a setback on funding”.
The listed contact for additional information was from Sanitas International, a company specializing in PR for government contractors under scrutiny and potentially at risk of fines or criminal penalty. Anonymous sources at Firefly have told Spaceflight Insider that the company is out of money.
Forming an aerospace company is no easy feat, with many facing similar issues. XCOR, and its Lynx spaceplane, has seen many of its core members depart, its spacecraft shuttered, and reports appearing in Popular Mechanics and Parabolic Arc have stated that much of its staff has been laid off. Other companies that formed under the NewSpace banner are finding that financial support is difficult to come by.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.