Firefly Aerospace will take over a launch pad at the Vandenberg Airforce base in California. Delta 2 previously used the launch pad, and Firefly Aerospace will now take over since Delta 2 will resign soon. The U.S Air Force approved the small Texas-based launch vehicle developer, Firefly Aerospace.
The U.S Air Force issued a “Statement of Support” in a bid to transfer the Space Launch Complex 2 West to Firefly Aerospace. The company intends to use the launch pad to launch its Alpha and Beta launch vehicles.
Space Launch Complex 2 West is over 50 years old. The launch pad is the current one used by the United Launch Alliance; the company launches its Delta 2 rocket there. The Delta 2 rocket will embark on its last trip this September. The rocket will carry the ICESat -2 satellite, an earth science satellite for NASA.
The director of launch operations at Firefly Aerospace, Brad Obrocto said that the company would take over the launch pad soon after Delta 2 vacates it. He also said that the company would work with NASA and USAF to ensure that the transition is smooth.
Firefly Aerospace will undergo some minimal changes to ensure that the launch pad is compatible with their Alpha launch vehicles. He also mentioned that the company would make some changes to the fluid and instrumentation interfaces of the Space Launch Complex 2 West pad.
The company would also need to install a launch pedestal that will horizontally roll the vehicle out and raise it for a vertical launch. Even though Brad did not mention the cost of the renovation, he noted that it is cheaper and easier to take over a government launch pad and convert it to a commercial launch sit than to build a new one from scratch.
If Delta 2 launches as scheduled, Firefly Aerospace expects to launch its Alpha vehicle from the launch pad in the third quarter of 2019. The company is hoping to launch monthly by the end of 2020. The Alpha vehicle is a two-stage vehicle that runs on liquid oxygen and kerosene engines.
Firefly is also developing a second launch vehicle called Beta. Beta has two extra boosters in the first stage. The company will renovate the launch pad to suit the Beta as well. Firefly Aerospace has, however, not released the date for the launch of the Beta launch vehicle.
The company is hoping to purchase other launch pads that can reach low inclination orbits.