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Firefly secures $700m contract with National Reconnaissance Office

The NRO created the contract vehicle, Streamlined Launch Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contract, to procure commercial launch services for its more risk-tolerant missions.
Photo Credit: Firefly Aerospace / Trevor Mahlmann

Firefly Aerospace has been chosen by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) as a launch provider, utilizing Firefly’s Alpha rocket. This selection is part of the NRO’s Streamlined Launch Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity Contract (SLIC), boasting a 10-year ordering period and a ceiling value of $700 million for all firm-fixed-price task orders.

Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace, expressed readiness to support the NRO’s dynamic space requirements while advancing their rapid launch operations capability. “In order to support the increased demand for Alpha launches, we’ve doubled the size of our facilities, implemented automated carbon composite technologies, and fine-tuned our operations to rapidly produce, test, and launch in response to our customers’ urgent mission needs,” he stated.

The SLIC program, established by the NRO’s Office of Space Launch, aims to leverage commercial best practices for responsive space missions and foster competition among emerging launch providers. Open to U.S. launch vehicles with a proven orbital record, SLIC allows providers to bid for dedicated, rideshare, or multi-manifest launch services.

As an SLIC provider, Firefly can compete for NRO launches using its Alpha rocket, capable of lifting over 1,000 kg to low Earth orbit from both Vandenberg Space Force Base and the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Firefly’s approach focuses on minimizing launch costs, increasing reliability, and enhancing responsiveness through in-house manufacturing capabilities, component sharing across vehicles, and innovative technologies like carbon composite sandwich structures and patented tap-off cycle propulsion systems.

Firefly’s upcoming Alpha launch for NASA is scheduled for early 2024. Additionally, the company will support a responsive on-orbit mission for the NRO aboard Firefly’s Elytra vehicle in 2024.