Firefly Aerospace, an end-to-end space transportation company, and Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing company, have entered the hot standby phase for VICTUS NOX, a Tactically Responsive Space mission led by Space Systems Command's (SSC) Space Safari Program Office. The team stands ready for the 24-hour call-up and orbit requirements to complete final operations and launch at the first available window.
"Challenging missions like this is where Firefly excels, and we are extremely humbled and proud to provide the U.S. Space Force and the nation with the critical capability to launch on-demand in support of national security," said Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace. "Together with our mission partners, we'll be setting a new standard, proving nominal launch operations can be completed in a matter of hours rather than weeks to months."
Millennium and Firefly have entered a six-month hot standby phase and will wait for activation at an intentionally unknown time. During this phase, the U.S. Space Force will give 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 will then issue Firefly a launch notice with the final orbit requirements. The Firefly team will have 24 hours to update the trajectory and guidance software, encapsulate the payload, transport it to the pad, mate to Alpha, and stand ready to launch at the first available window. Once the payload is deployed in low Earth orbit, Millennium will attempt to fully initialize the space vehicle in less than 48 hours and then begin operations for its Space Domain Awareness (SDA) mission.
"What we're doing with VICTUS NOX has never been done before, and I attribute our success to the dedication and teamwork of our collective team – Millennium, Firefly, and SSC's Space Safari and Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) offices," said Jason Kim, CEO of Millennium Space Systems. "You need to have the willingness to know that there will be changes – whether requirements or processes. That's where the teamwork and close partnerships really came into play. It's about what help is needed to address a challenge – on all sides – and everyone pitching in to support that."
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 and Millennium also completed multiple rehearsals in preparation for launch, which included packing and delivering a satellite mockup to Firefly's integration facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base to practice all launch operations within the prescribed 24 hours.
"The U.S.'s ability to rapidly respond to on-orbit needs is critical to our national defense, particularly in today's evolving space environment," said Lt. Col. MacKenzie Birchenough, Materiel Leader for Space Safari. "The accelerated build time the team demonstrated for VICTUS NOX, combined with the demanding launch and on-orbit goals, exemplifies our strong commitment to preserving our nation's dominance and ability to freely operate in the space domain."