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.

Firefly Aerospace Completes Oversubscribed $75M Series A and $100M Secondary Transaction

CEDAR PARK, Texas, May 4, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced the successful completion of its Series A financing. The $75 million Series A, which valued the company at greater than $1 billion, was led by DADA Holdings, with participation by Astera Institute, Canon Ball LLC, Reuben Brothers Limited, SMS Capital Investment LLC, Raven One Ventures, The XBTO Ventures and other investors. The Series A capital raise team was led by Darren Ma, Firefly CFO. Investor outreach was led by Eric Salwan, Firefly Co-founder and Director of Commercial Business Development. Jed McCaleb, representing Astera Institute, will join Firefly’s Board of Directors.

Interest in the Series A round far exceeded the $75 million equity being offered. In an effort to satisfy the overwhelming demand in the Series A round, Firefly’s seed investor, Noosphere Ventures, sold approximately $100 million of its holdings of Firefly equity to certain Series A participants and other investors through secondary transactions. Following the forthcoming launch of its flagship Alpha small launch vehicle, Firefly intends to raise an additional $300 million later in 2021 to fund its ambitious growth plans through 2025.

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Firefly Aerospace Backer Max Polyakov Acquires Satellite Maker Dragonfly Aerospace

STELLENBOSCH, South Africa (Dragonfly Aerospace PR) — Dr. Max Polyakov – the international technology entrepreneur, investor and economist who is revolutionizing the space industry – today announced the completion of his acquisition of a majority stake in Dragonfly Aerospace, a South African NewSpace company with over 20 years of proven heritage in high-performance imaging satellites and payloads.

This purchase cements Dragonfly Aerospace’s status as a critical component of the vertically integrated space ecosystem being built by Dr. Polyakov and Noosphere Ventures that includes Firefly, the competitively-priced space launch provider, EOS Data Analytics (EOSDA), a satellite data and analytics company with its own radar and optical satellite constellations, and SETS, a space electric thruster systems firm.

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NASA Awards Firefly Aerospace $93.3M to Deliver Suite of Payloads to the Moon in 2023

Blue Ghost lander on the moon. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, February 4, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, announced that NASA has awarded Firefly $93.3 million to deliver a suite of ten NASA-sponsored science and technology demonstration payloads to Mare Crisium in the Moon’s Crisium basin. Firefly’s ‘Blue Ghost’ lunar lander will deliver the payloads to the lunar surface in 2023 in fulfillment of Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) task order 19D, managed by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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D-Orbit Secures €15M Financing from EIB

FINO MORNASCO, Italy (D-Orbit PR)– Despite the global challenges brought by the events of 2020, D-Orbit, an Italian systems and services provider for the space sector, is steadily moving forward with its roadmap.

In September, D-Orbit secured €15 million [$17.8 million] financing from the European Investment Bank (EIB), marking the first time that the EIB has funded a space firm. The funds will advance the expansion of the company, whose ultimate goal is redefining the standards of
the orbital transportation industry.

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Seraphim Capital, Noosphere Invest in D-Orbit

Fino Mornasco, Italy (D-Orbit PR) — D-Orbit, an Italian systems and services provider for the Traditional and New Space sectors, has announced a new funding round led by Seraphim Capital, the world’s largest venture capital fund dedicated to investing in NewSpace companies. 

The round also marks the entrance of Noosphere Ventures, D-Orbit’s first American investor. The Silicon Valley-based asset management firm specializes in transforming high-potential companies into market leaders, with a particular focus on the space market. 

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Original Firefly Shareholders Sue Firefly’s Markusic, Polyakov Alleging Fraud

Tom Markusic

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A group of original shareholders in the defunct Firefly Space Systems have accused co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic of fraudulently conspiring with Ukrainian billionaire Maxym Polyakov to force the rocket company into bankruptcy in 2017 and reconstitute it under a nearly identical name without giving them any stake in the new venture.

Markusic “betrayed the trust of his original co-founders and investors and committed fraud to cut them out of his aerospace company. Instead of managing the operations of the Original Firefly, a revolutionary rocket company with endless potential, Markusic schemed with…Maxym Polyakov…to rob Plaintiffs of their investments and form a new company called Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (the ‘New Firefly’),” the plaintiffs said in a lawsuit.

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EOS to create “EOS SAR” Radar Microsat Constellation

MENLO PARK, Calif. (EOS Data Analytics PR) — US-based EOS Data Analytics Inc. (EOS), a space portfolio company of Noosphere Ventures, today unveiled EOS SAR – a project to develop its own synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors intended for deployment in a constellation of microsatellites.

EOS SAR has been in stealth mode for over two years. EOS has more than 5 years of experience in developing data analytics products and cloud services for optical and SAR data from satellites. Over the years the company has developed an in-depth understanding of commercial and government remote sensing markets, which informed the decision to create its own SAR satellite constellation. 

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Firefly Aerospace Provides a DREAM Payload Opportunity

CEDAR PARK, Texas, June 17, 2019 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — The quest for space travel inspires STEM interest like no other endeavor.  Firefly has promoted that interest by opening its doors to youth though Firefly Academy, the Base 11 Space Challenge, and the Firefly International Rocket Event (FIRE).  Today Firefly is taking their STEM commitment literally to the next level by announcing a global competition to host academic and educational payloads, free of charge, on the inaugural flight of the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle.
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Firefly Aerospace Expands Advisory Board With Lightfoot, Nield & Others

CEDAR PARK, Texas, July 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly), a developer of orbital launch vehicles for the small to medium satellite market, announced today the formation of an all-star advisory board. Members of the board act as ambassadors and advocates of Firefly and support the executive and management teams through consultation and strategic analysis. Initial appointments to the Firefly board are Jeff Bingham, Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr., George Nield, and William F. Readdy.

Jeff Bingham brings nearly 40 years of governmental experience to Firefly. Instrumental in shaping space station policy, he served most recently as the senior advisor on space for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He was previously the associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Legislative Affairs. Jeff played a key role in ensuring continued congressional support for the ISS as the legislative coordinator for the International Space Station program.
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