Firefly has been in business for about a year. My first several blog entries will describe what has happened during this time.
But first, I think it is important to briefly describe my view of the Framework for the development of a kick-ass 21st century rocket company: the Mission, the Team, the Technology, the Plan. It is essential for success to get every one of these cornerstones of the company right from the outset.
Mission: Firefly’s vision is to extend humanity’s reach into the universe by assembling a team of like-minded individuals to build the next generation of spacecraft. Firefly is first and foremost a business, so its spacecraft are designed to satisfy a market need and provide high monetary return to shareholders. The strongest current need is for a dedicated small satellite launcher in the half-metric-ton payload class. Firefly will first focus on developing and deploying such a launcher, achieving substantially lower cost and dramatically higher launch rate than is currently available.
Team: A strong team rallying around an inspiring Mission is unstoppable. If you have the right people, much of the execution of the project takes care of itself. Firefly is building an engineering-centric team led by world-class experts that still have “fire in their belly.” This expertise is amplified by recruiting brilliant (but perhaps less experienced) engineers and technicians to rapidly execute our rocket development program. The management structure is flat, where ability and accomplishments command more respect and rewards than job title. Lastly, Firefly is geographically and institutionally diverse; our extended team includes individuals, companies, and government offices located remotely from our headquarters. We seek the best people to work on the project, regardless of their location or affiliation.
Technology: Firefly’s goal of rapidly producing a low-cost, high flight rate launcher drives the choice of technology employed. Simplicity is more important than performance. Flight proven technologies are preferred. Non-flight-proven technologies that dramatically improve the capability or economics of our vehicles are considered, but only if significant ground test data exists to provide confidence that the technology will reliably perform in flight.COTS components are preferred, but schedule critical systems (such as engines and primary structures) and cost-prohibitive COTS components are developed in-house to assure that Firefly maintains complete control of cost and schedule.
Plan: The Firefly plan emphasizes rapid development and progression to flight hardware. A structured but lightweight systems engineering approach is employed to quickly iterate between design and testing, where multiple design/test cycles are preferred over protracted design/analysis phases and fewer tests. Development milestones for Firefly’s first vehicle are: full-scale core propulsion and structures technology demonstration, first stage ground test, sub-orbital first stage flight test, second stage ground test, full vehicle orbital flight test. Vehicle production capacity will be built up, concurrent with vehicle development, to assure rapid transition from testing to frequent-launch commercial service.