An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: Firefly Aerospace just set a new responsive-launch record. The company’s Alpha rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday (Sept. 14) at 10:28 p.m. EDT (7:28 p.m. local California time; 0228 GMT on Sept. 15), kicking off a mission for the U.S. Space Force called Victus Nox. The rocket roared off the pad just 27 hours after the U.S. Space Force gave the order — less time than on any previous national security mission. The wheels for Victus Nox (Latin for “conquer the night”) began turning in September 2022, when the Space Force awarded contracts to Texas-based Firefly and Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing subsidiary headquartered in the Los Angeles area that built the mission’s payload.
On Aug. 30 of this year, Firefly and Millennium entered the mission’s “hot standby” phase, a six-month period during which they could receive a launch-alert notice at any time. After receipt of that notice, Millennium and Firefly would have 60 hours to get the satellite from Millennium’s Southern California facilities to Vandenberg, fuel it up and mate it to the Alpha rocket’s payload adapter. The alert came through recently, and the mission teams hit their ambitious timeline. “Upon activation, the space vehicle was transported 165 miles [266 kilometers] from Millennium’s El Segundo facility to Vandenberg Space Force Base where it was tested, fueled and mated to the launch adapter in just under 58 hours, significantly faster than the typical timeline of weeks or months,” Space Force officials said in the emailed statement.
The teams then had to wait for the launch order, which would give them Victus Nox’s orbital requirements. They would then have just 24 hours to update Alpha’s trajectory and guidance software, encapsulate the satellite in its payload fairing, get the payload to the pad, mate it to Alpha and get the rocket ready to launch, Firefly wrote in a statement. The teams managed that task as well. They were ready to launch as soon as the first window opened, which was 27 hours after the Space Force gave the order. Victus Nox’s speed goals didn’t end with the successful liftoff. The teams now aim to get the satellite up and running within 48 hours of its deployment. The report notes that the previous response-launch record for a U.S. national security mission was 21 days, which was set in June 2021.