Among Cedar Park's unsuspecting business parks, a team of engineers are hard at work completing a spacecraft that will land on the moon later this year.

Firefly Aerospace is an end-to-end space delivery company that designs, manufactures and tests its own rockets for commercial and government uses. The rockets are made to carry objects such as satellites and research equipment into space.

In 2021, NASA awarded the company contracts totaling $230 million to create an unmanned lunar lander, called Blue Ghost, as a part of its ongoing research efforts to re-establish human presence on the moon for the first time since 1972.

The impact

While many Austin-area residents may associate the local space industry with Elon Musk’s new SpaceX facility planned for Bastrop, Firefly has had its roots in the area since 2014.

The Cedar Park headquarters houses its design labs, support teams and mission control centers, while a newly expanded, 200-acre facility in Briggs is used for building and testing the rockets.

“With Cedar Park and our headquarters being located there, you’ve got this capability of size, and you’re only half an hour north of downtown Austin where you’ve got University of Texas, a hub of great talent to lean into,” Chief Operating Officer Dan Fermon said.

Since 2022, the company has added over 300 new employees, thanks in part to incentive deals and support from Cedar Park’s Economic Development Department, Fermon said.

Another detail

One of the company’s biggest milestones was the successful launch of their Firefly Alpha rocket in October 2022, Fermon said.

Carrying a $15 million launch price tag, the rocket later went on to break the world record for the fastest responsive-launch time for a national security rocket mission in September.

“When you're a startup, job one is about proving your technology. ... And after that success, it’s how do you prove you can do it again, again and again,” Fermon said.

What’s next

The Blue Ghost mission later this year is just one of two moon landings the company has planned with NASA.

The second mission—slated for 2026—will enlist seismic technology to search for water beneath the lunar surface.

As for Firefly's long-term goals, the sky is not the limit. Its evolving line of launch vehicles and spacecraft could eventually be capable of transportation to distant planets like Mars, according to the company website.