Firefly Eyes Mid-September Launch for Second Alpha Mission

Second Firefly Alpha rocket on the launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I’ve been making the rounds in the Utah State University Fieldhouse here in Logan talking with the various companies with booths at Small Satellite 2022 conference. Here is the first of several updates.

The window for Firefly Aerospace’s second attempt to launch its Alpha booster opens on Sept. 11. That flight will be out of Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The rocket is already on the launch pad at Vandenberg undergoing pre-flight tests.

(more…)

Tom Markusic Out as Firefly CEO 3 Months After AEI Takes Majority Stake in Rocket Company

Tom Markusic and Lauren Lyons in front of Firefly Alpha rocket on the pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Firefly Aerospace co-founder Tom Markusic is out as CEO, a move that comes three months after AE Industrial Partners (AEI) led a $75 million Series B funding round and completed its acquisition of a majority stake in the rocket company.

Firefly announced this week that Markusic transitioned to the role of full-time board member and chief technical advisor on Thursday, June 16. He remains “a significant minority investor” in the company, which is preparing for the second flight test of its Alpha small-satellite booster.

(more…)

Firefly Aerospace Owner Max Polyakov Sells Stake to Tom Markusic

Max Polyakov

Firefly Aerospace majority stakeholder Max Polyakov announced he was selling his shares to company co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic in a bitter message on his Facebook page.

I am giving up for 1 usd consideration all my 58% stake in Firefly to my co-founder and partner Tom. Dear CFIUS, Air Force and 23 agencies of USA who betrayed me and judge me in all your actions for past 15 months . I hope now you are happy . History will judge all of you guys. Max love Ukraine and yes I have Ukrainian passport and I am Founder of Firefly !!! Bye my “bird” and at the end of the days I proud what I done for my Land soul and heritage !!!

CFIUS is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Late last year, the committee required that Polyakov, who is Ukrainian, sell his stake in the company. Bloomberg reported:

(more…)

Firefly Aerospace Halts Launch Activities at Vandenberg as Majority Owner Polyakov Forced to Sell Stake in Company

Bloomberg reports that Firefly Aerospace has stopped preparations for the second launch of its Alpha booster due to a decision by the U.S. government to force the company’s majority owner, Ukrainian entrepreneur, Max Polyakov to sell his majority stake in the company.

Government and aerospace industry officials have expressed objections to Polyakov’s control of the company amid fears that valuable technology could make its way to Ukraine, Russia or other nations trying to develop rocket programs. Despite putting more than $200 million of his fortune into Firefly, Polyakov agreed to step down from the company’s board and Firefly’s day-to-day activities in late 2020 to help make it easier for the company to win U.S. government and military contracts and ease some of the underlying tensions. 

In late November, however, Polyakov received a letter from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, that called out national security worries and requested that Polyakov and his investment firm Noosphere Venture Partners sell off their roughly 50% stake in Firefly. Polyakov agreed to this demand, according to his spokespeople, while maintaining that his ownership of Firefly poses no national security threats. “Noosphere Ventures announced today that it intends to retain an investment banking firm to assist in the sale of Noosphere Ventures’ ownership interest in Firefly Aerospace,” Polyakov’s company said in a statement. 

While educated as an obstetrician-gynecologist, Polyakov made his fortune through business software ventures and internet gaming, dating and marketing sites. He rescued Firefly from bankruptcy in 2017 and poured money into the company to revitalize it. In September, Firefly conducted its first rocket launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California. The rocket didn’t reach orbit but performed well for an initial launch, and the company has been racing to fire up a second one.

The U.S. government halted Firefly’s current rocket launch operations at Vandenberg as the ownership issue with Polyakov plays out, according to two people familiar with the situation. The clashes between Polyakov and the U.S. haven’t been previously reported.

Hanwha Systems $30M Investment into Kymeta Corp. Approved by CFIUS

REDMOND, Wash., May 25, 2021 (Kymeta PR) — Kymeta Corporation (www.kymetacorp.com)—the communications company making mobile global—announced today that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has approved a $30 million investment by Hanwha Systems Co., Ltd. (HSC) (www.hanwha.com), a leading global solutions company that provides differentiated smart technologies in defense electronics and information infrastructure, in Kymeta.

The approval provided by CFIUS clears the way for HSC and Kymeta to close on the transaction that was jointly announced last December. The investment moves Kymeta one step closer toward developing solutions that are future proof and interoperable with both LEO and GEO mega constellations. Today, the Kymeta™ u8 is the only commercially available flat panel antenna that is compatible with LEO and GEO satellite constellations and enabled to take advantage of the growing capacity within space.

(more…)

Momentus Receives Draft National Security Agreement (SRAC)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Momentus PR) — Momentus Inc. (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a U.S. commercial space company that intends to offer transportation and other in-space infrastructure services, today announced that it received a draft National Security Agreement (NSA) from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The draft NSA specifies CFIUS’s proposed requirements to resolve its national security concerns about the foreign ownership and control of Momentus. Receiving the draft NSA is an important milestone toward overcoming a key issue that has delayed completion of Momentus’ proposed merger with Stable Road Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: SRAC, SRACU, SRACW) (“Stable Road”).

Momentus aims to be a trusted partner to the U.S. government and has taken swift action in response to government concerns. The Company obtained the resignation of its co-founder and former CEO and implemented trust and voting arrangements to ensure that the shares of its co-founders can only be voted by U.S. citizens. The Company voluntarily filed for CFIUS review to enable CFIUS and its member agencies to scrutinize any and all records of Momentus, and proactively proposed a U.S. national security mitigation plan intended to resolve the national security concerns that CFIUS and its member agencies have raised.

(more…)

SPACovirus Sweeps Space Sector

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)
Wall Street’s latest easy money craze has attracted a growing number of space companies. But, just because they can go public, should they?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Seven space companies have gotten caught up in the SPACovirus sweeping through Wall Street. The impact on the space industry is going to be interesting to watch.

A SPAC is a special purpose acquisition company. It’s a publicly traded investment firm that, with outside investors, acquires or merges with another company, and then takes the acquisition public under its own name.

(more…)

Mitsui Completes Acquisition of Spaceflight

SEATTLE, June 12, 2020 (Spaceflight PR) – Today, satellite rideshare launch provider, Spaceflight Inc., announced its acquisition by Mitsui & Co., Ltd., in partnership with Yamasa Co., Ltd., is now complete with the final review of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

In February 2020, Spaceflight’s parent company, Spaceflight Industries, announced it had signed an agreement with the Japanese companies for the sale of the launch service provider, pending the CFIUS review. The review was complete in April and the acquisition finalized today, June 12, 2020. Mitsui & Co. and Yamasa will have 50/50 joint venture ownership in Spaceflight, but the launch service provider will continue to operate as a privately held, independent U.S.-based company.

(more…)

Raytheon Wins $378 Million Contract to Replace GPS Computer Hardware

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SMC PR) — On March 26, the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s GPS Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) program instructed Raytheon to replace the computer hardware in OCX prior to system delivery due to sale of IBM’s computer product line to a Chinese company.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the IBM x86 product line sale to a foreign owned company, Lenovo on Aug. 2014. The agreement ensures IBM supported their hardware until August 2022. At the time of the sale, the Government identified this as a major impact to OCX by creating an unacceptable cyber risk. However, the Government waited on implementing a fix until Raytheon showed promising program performance in delivering OCX.

(more…)