Max Polyakov’s Firefly Gets $75 million and Continues Building Rockets

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This artist's impression shows the outermost planet of the solar system, Neptune, and its small moon Hippocamp. Hippocamp was discovered in images taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.CREDIT - ESA/Hubble, NASA, L. Calçada
This artist's impression shows the outermost planet of the solar system, Neptune, and its small moon Hippocamp. Hippocamp was discovered in images taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.CREDIT - ESA/Hubble, NASA, L. Calçada

Max Polyakov bought Firefly in 2017, and now, a consortium of investors has already staked money on the company’s rocket development potential.

Firefly Aerospace Raises $75 Million to Keep Going with Its Rocket Development

This May, Firefly announced receiving an additional $75 million. DADA Holdings, Raven One Ventures, and Canon Ball are among the investors who contributed capital. 

Firefly is one of the young commercial launch companies vying to ride in the footsteps of SpaceX and Rocket Lab by catering to the rapidly growing small satellite launch sector. Over the past few years, the firm has been designing its Alpha rocket and has earned commercial and civil government launch contracts from NASA, General Atomics, and others. The Texas-based company also had its share of losses, including the failure of its first incarnation, Firefly Space Systems, which was later reborn as Firefly Aerospace backed by Noosphere Ventures. According to the company, a cryptocurrency billionaire Jed McCaleb made a significant investment into Firefly and would soon join its executive board.

With its base not far from Austin, Firefly has been working on a rocket to launch satellites into space for the last two years. The carrier, dubbed Alpha, will have a 2200 pounds payload capacity, so it will fit right in between what SpaceX’s Falcon9 and Rocket Lab’s Electron can offer. Firefly has been getting ready for the first flight from Vandenberg Base in California for several months and plans to take off in June.

Firefly’s Robust History & Future Potential

In 2017, Max Polyakov, a Ukrainian businessman, rescued Firefly from bankruptcy and invested $200 million in the firm. Recently, his company Noosphere Ventures sold a $100 million interest in Firefly to undisclosed parties during the most recent investment phase. Polyakov is still Firefly’s leading shareholder. The firm is now worth more than $1 billion, but business executives wouldn’t say how much exactly.

The company hopes to develop a bigger rocket than Alpha, along with a moon lander and, perhaps, a reusable spaceplane. Firefly was awarded a $90+ million deal by NASA earlier this year to transport ten scientific and research payloads to the Moon in 2023. These tools would be carried on Firefly’s proposed lunar lander, Blue Ghost. In a tweet, Polyakov said Noosphere is proud to have helped the early production of Firefly Aerospace and the Alpha mid-weight launcher. As Firefly enters commercial operation and takes on more aggressive projects, including lunar payload distribution, the timing is correct to broaden the company’s investor base.

Tom Markusic, Firefly’s CEO, has been in charge of Alpha development and has been awaiting its launch for some time. The launch, scheduled from the base in Vandenberg, California, has been postponed for several months. Markusic, a NASA, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic former employee, has led Firefly since its beginning and to this moment when the company’s stock could skyrocket if Alpha proves to be flight-ready. 

Firefly should be able to make it through 2021, according to Markusic. If the launch is successful, the firm would collect more funds under more favorable conditions for its customers, allowing it to continue developing innovative vehicles for many more years. Firefly expects to perform an Alpha static test fire this May. During this test, the rocket will remain in the launch complex while all of its systems are tested. In an interview, Markusic said it’s about everything but actually launching Alpha. 

Firefly is now expecting one of the required electronic equipment components, designed specifically for flight termination. The system is supposed to destroy the carrier if it deviates from its intended route. Firefly plans to deploy in mid-June if the equipment arrives in May. Besides, according to Markusic, the company is already working on the second rocket that should soon become launch-ready. If it does, this will give a chance to increase Firefly launch frequency. 

Smaller rocket companies, including Astra and Virgin Orbit, have recently conducted launches hoping to contest RocketLab, a leading lightweight launch provider, in this new private space race. In the meantime, other smaller rocket firms and emerging as satellite makers earn millions of dollars in financing. Both Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic dream of flying visitors to an altitude where space begins, while SpaceX wants to send out people to the Moon orbit.

 

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