Responsive Space Demonstration
Firefly Aerospace successfully launched the U.S. Space Force’s VICTUS NOX mission with 24-hour notice, demonstrating a critical capability for the United States to rapidly respond to on-orbit needs during a conflict or in response to a national security threat.
Upon receiving the notice to launch and orbit requirements from the Space Force, Firefly completed all final mission preparations, including trajectory software updates, payload encapsulation, transport to the launch pad, mating to Alpha, and fueling, within 24 hours. Alpha then launched at the first available window.
The flight began with a nominal countdown and liftoff at 7:28 p.m. PDT on September 14 and progressed seamlessly through each stage of flight, including stage one main engine cutoff (MECO), stage separation, and stage two ignition. Alpha then deployed the Millennium Space Systems satellite at the target destination in low Earth orbit. Firefly also successfully tested an Alpha stage two relight and targeted re-entry.
Following payload deployment in low Earth orbit, Millennium fully initialized the space vehicle in less than 48 hours and then began operations for its Space Domain Awareness (SDA) mission.
In preparation for the mission, Firefly manufactured and acceptance tested each critical component, engine, and vehicle stage for its Alpha rocket in addition to conducting a static fire to verify all systems operate within flight parameters. Firefly also completed multiple rehearsals to practice all launch operations within the prescribed 24 hours.
Upon completion of the build-up phase, Firefly and Millennium entered a six-month hot standby phase and waited for activation at an intentionally unknown time. During this phase, the U.S. Space Force gave the mission team an alert notification, kicking off a 60-hour window to transport the payload to Vandenberg Space Force Base, conduct fueling operations, and integrate it with Firefly’s Alpha payload adaptor. Space Force officials then issued Firefly the 24-hour notice to complete all final mission operations and launch at the first available window to achieve the orbit requirements.