Fluid Power Journal

Firefly Aerospace to Automate Composite Rocket with Ingersoll Machine Tools

Firefly Aerospace Inc., a manufacturer of launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, recently announced a substantial commitment to increase its manufacturing capacity by transitioning large-parts manufacturing to automated fiber placement (AFP) Mongoose Hybrid systems from Ingersoll Machine Tools beginning next year. 

Firefly will install the first of two planned AFP systems in May 2021 at its manufacturing and test facility in Briggs, Texas, where Alpha will be requalified using AFP manufacturing processes. Firefly’s new Florida Space Coast factory and launch site at Cape Canaveral will house the second automated assembly line beginning in 2022 and will ultimately be capable of producing an estimated 24 Alpha rockets per year, with the Briggs plant switching to automated developmental builds of the larger Beta launch vehicle.

Firefly will leverage the same AFP that aerospace companies increasingly use to more efficiently manufacture the latest composite airframes for commercial airliners, government aircraft, and fighter jets, ranging from the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 to F-35s. Once up and running at capacity, Firefly’s AFP system will fabricate all carbon-fiber structures of an Alpha rocket, including barrels, fairings, domes, and payload components, in as little as 14 days.

Firefly’s Mongoose Hybrid will be the first equipped with Ingersoll’s new Hawk fiber delivery module, designed and tested for high productivity and high-reliability layup of mild curvature surfaces. Mongoose Hybrid also features Ingersoll’s automatic exchange of multiple composite manufacturing modules operating in adjacent work zones, allowing automated layup on multiple tools without human intervention. 

Firefly’s new automated rocket factories will produce a broad range of benefits, including a 30% to 50% reduction in composite materials waste, increased repeatability, reduced touch labor and build times, and a tailored and optimized structure that further reduces weight and overall costs.

For more information, visit https://en.machinetools.camozzi.com/who/ingersoll-machine-tools.kl and https://firefly.com/.

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