An aerospace company based in Austin, Texas has signed a multimillion dollar agreement with Space Florida to manufacture and launch rockets at Cape Canaveral.
The company, Firefly Aerospace, told the Austin American-Statesman that it plans to invest $52 million in the project and expects to create “more than 200 high paying jobs” in Florida. Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, will provide up to $18.9 million matching funds through the Florida Department of Transportation Spaceport Improvement Plan.
Firefly’s specific infrastructure improvements for Cape Canaveral include a 150,000 square foot rocket manufacturing facility at Exploration Park, where their “Alpha” and “Beta” rockets (for shorter and longer space missions, respectively) will be built, and establishing a launch facility at Space Launch Complex 20.
Tom Markusic, Firefly’s CEO, is a former NASA research scientist who founded the company in 2014 with other aerospace and business experts. The company went through bankruptcy reorganization in 2016 after a key European investor withdrew after the Brexit vote, and Firefly successfully won a spot as one of nine companies chosen by NASA to compete to deliver payloads to the moon, a renewed NASA mission that will help develop future missions to Mars.
“Firefly Aerospace is proud to be the newest member of the Florida Space Coast family,” said Markusic in a written statement. “Our mass production manufacturing facility in Exploration Park will enable Firefly to produce 24 Alpha vehicles a year, enabling a launch cadence that will support a rapidly expanding global small satellite revolution and the commercialization of cislunar space.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) was in Cape Canaveral over the weekend to announce the deal and welcome Firefly to the Space Coast.
Firefly was honored to have Governor DeSantis welcome our mass production facility to the Florida Space Coast. Col. Ste Marie from the 45th Space Wing spoke about Firefly’s launch plans for SLC-20. See the entire ceremony here: https://t.co/ez6PJs0Cwa. pic.twitter.com/vcy9XpKisW
— Firefly Aerospace (@Firefly_Space) February 23, 2019
Firefly will be joining other aerospace companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin that are already building and launching rockets from Cape Canaveral, a development in recent years that has helped alleviate the local unemployment crisis caused when the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.