Tour Firefly Aerospace’s Factory and Test Site With Their CEO, Tom Markusic


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Join me as I walk through Firefly Aerospace’s Texas test site and factory with their CEO, Tom Markusic. This was a highly detailed tour where we got to learn a ton about their engines, their rockets, and rocket science in general. It was super fun chatting with Tom because he has a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, so I learned a lot!

Tags: Rocket Factory, How rockets are made, Rocket engines, Tom Markusic, Firefly Aerospace, rocket engines, how rockets work, rocket engine tour, Reaver engine, Firefly, Austin Texas, Austin Rockets, Rocket company, Tim Dodd, Everyday Astronaut, Rocket factory austin texas, Austin rockets, firefly rocket company, Alpha rocket

Comments:
  1. Local Fit

    I love that some of the other private space fairing companies are starting to showcase what’s going on underneath the hood. Tim, you’re brilliant man. For doing these insider interviews and your knowledge on propulsion. So cool, please keep em’ coming!

  2. Tetsujinfr

    That was really cool to watch, seems like a great project. Tx

  3. tysoe27

    Someone on Reddit said this guy looks like Dr Octavius/Octopus from the movie, and I can’t unsee it. Awesome to see he knows so much about his rockets. I just hope he doesn’t use his engineering knowledge to try to create a sustainable fusion power reactor using mechanical arms strapped to his back.

  4. Thalass

    Cannon plugs are usually reliable. How do the pins shear like that? I look forward to the next launch! Good luck!

  5. Rory Shields

    Love this. Fun to hear these guys need out on a higher level.

  6. Brent BalaBas

    51:10 they’re actually called “Dirt Dobbers” and they’re not wasps..They actually kill wasps and wasp larvae. Other than imposing on the rocket tech they’re highly benificial…

  7. Thomas Lewis

    Great interview,.I love that the CEO is giving us a show and tell..NASA, Elon Musk started this transparency in the aerospace industry so it’s really cool that Tom is doing the same with Firefly.

  8. Adrian Chapmanlaw

    All my years working in electronics, when there’s a problem it’s almost always a connector!

  9. benny Soper

    Thankyou Tom and Tim! This interview gave me such confidence in your ability to get to space. Thankyou for being so open with your technology. Its time to turn into the space age.

  10. Regolith

    This was a fantastic interview. I knew next to nothing about Tom Markusic or Firefly – they were just “yet another NewSpace company” in my mind. Now they’re my favorite of all the new startups. I’m far more impressed with Markusic than I thought I’d be. I had no idea he had so much experience doing propulsion work at the Air Force, NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.

  11. Alex Glez

    I love how he talks about the projects and it feels so much more about the team than himself, especially compared to other missions. I am not sure how I get that feeling, but especially when he talks about the teams in Ucraine, when he said “we just hired a mass production expert […]”, etc etc

  12. tubefish666

    When your workshop tour guide is later blurring out some stuff in his video, then you know that you were in the middle of the kitchen. Thank you Tim for that fascinating video. You are top notch!

  13. Sean Cashin

    This is what a superhuman looks like. I can’t wrap my head around how advanced these men are. How do you get that far in life?

  14. Orian de Wit

    The list of companies led by great engineers who are willing to give the public a crash course in rocket science just keeps growing.
    Absolutely love these tours, so many details to send me into a wiki-binge.

  15. elptrilogy

    Two words for this interview: “That’s Awesome” lol great job Tim and Firefly!

  16. bonnpoland

    I’m only 22 minutes into this and I gotta say, Tim is doing a great interview! And Tom Markusic seems like a chill dude, nevermind the rocket-science brilliance that these two guys have.

  17. Tom McCaffrey

    That was amazing access!! You put out excellent content, and the research you do and access you earn, is the reason!

    Now if you would just compress the effort and time required to make such good work so that you could put them out more often. haha

  18. Wild Tangent

    Another tour?! Dude you’re killing at the rocketry journalism game, and I am here for it!

  19. Nikolai Kostka

    Tom: “We will cut it out don’t worry”
    Tim: proceeds to not cut it out

  20. ShiP wReCk

    The fact that someone as smart as him is drinking a monster makes me feel less bad about drinking it when I study for a test.
    I especially like the monster juice, and the monster rehab peach tea.
    (I’m very caffeine sensitive, so I can only drink half of one per day)

  21. Mike Peterson

    Tim, that smile on your face during the test fire says EVERYTHING!! I’m filled with envy!

  22. Justin Schiavo

    Love how he was just like, “yeah this little thing here caused it to fail”

  23. Barrox Barrox

    Its so awesome to see that ceo’s of the new generation take the time to do these interviews in such a casual form. Tom Markusic standing there with his soda laughing with Tim. I love the openness.

  24. Warren Wattles

    “We just hired a guy who has experience in mass production of combustion chambers.” Exactly how many places mass produce combustion chambers? I’ll give you 3 guesses and the first 2 don’t count.

  25. username

    Let’s hope they don’t get cancelled by the investors, before they even finish the first season.
    I’m really looking forward to see it light up in orbit and travel to new frontiers.

  26. Dale Hodgkinson

    “firefly” aerospace with a “reaver” engine, I hope they have a midbulk transport 03-K64 Firefly class ship in the works.

  27. Ashish Shah

    He seems like such a humble and nice guy. I’m more excited than ever and them to succeed soon. My best of wishes

  28. William Grimberg

    This interview with Tom and his showcasing of their operations was totally interesting and inspiring.
    Didn’t realize that Tim with both these interviews is so in tune with rocket technology which makes these interesting interviews . Great work Tim .

  29. MrGoesBoom

    Not only do you get the best interviews and tours, it always seems like they’re both really happy to have you there and with the questions you ask. Thanks for the upload Tim!

  30. MrRolnicek

    “Rocket Lab and Relativity, catch me if you can”
    That is my favorite quote from the whole interview.

  31. Albert Ellison

    So refreshing to have CEO’s that know their product down to the wiring.

  32. Tomi Selepe

    Instead of giving a seat to Shatner, Blue-Origin could just give it to Tim Dodd and unite all space fans and come to the fold so we could have thriving space adventures for folks of all kinds, everyone doing what they are good at. All this hate is slowing the space flight progress down.

  33. Matthew Stecker

    I went into this not wanting to like them, but Tom really won me over.

  34. Saurabh Hyalinge

    This series is outstanding!! On site interview with the founders!

  35. Roy Kunstman

    Never have i ever seen a rocket ceo go like “Well this electrical connector..” and goes and just points to that connector. The visuals here are Amazing. Great job Tim ! Also.. beautifull rocket with a great name

  36. Aksh x

    Loving every bit of this interview, and it’s awesome to see Tom knowing what’s being done. Like most of us now, I’m a bigger fan of Firefly Aerospace. Also Tim, you rock!

  37. C S

    Tim is absolutely the MAN when it comes to quality interviews – I am now a Firefly fan!

  38. Andrew Scott

    Shout out to Tim and Firefly for welcoming everyone to experience the history of spaceflight in the making. It’s a win-win-win as Tim gets great content, Firefly gets fantastic advertisement, and we get the access we all want

  39. Richard's Workshop

    I love these interviews. I was impressed with Firefly’s first attempt, and it is neat to see a bit of what is behind the curtain there. I wish them success!

  40. Frank Pirolo

    I think this has to be the smartest guy I’ve ever seen drinking a Monster energy.

  41. The Awesome With Autism S

    Another great interview, Tim! Your engagement in these series is unmatched and your contributions to the celebration of this new wave of space exploration and travel is by far the most compelling and intriguing to the laymen. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

  42. Whit Wilson

    Thanks, TIM, for bringing us into the “brave new world” of commercial space! I love the fact that these big company heads, like Tom and Elon, trust you enough to do so. Definitely not Norminal! Love what you do and the enthusiasm with which you do it.

  43. Paul Shirren

    Not even half way through yet and this is a fantastic interview and Tom is very generous with his time and knowledge. Their first test was so close. They are going to be gaining a lot of new fans.

  44. Eddie Jr

    I am happy to see this coverage. Tim is 1st class all the way. Love how he dives deep into the technical side of rockets, and can explain things so well to us that know little to nothing about that side of this business. Without Tim, we wouldn’t have seen any coverage like this. Is you still haven’t subscribed, please note, it’s completely free. So is clicking like. One of the best things you can do to support Tim!

  45. Regolith

    1:55 omg when he references that scene with Kaylee and the bounty hunter Jubal Early, I immediately thought of his unbelievably menacing line “have you ever been r*ped?” I thought that CAN’T be the line Tom is about to quote LOL. The writing & characters on that show were so good, so sharp. *sigh* RIP Firefly. It’s still too soon…

  46. Noah Mayer

    I really want to see an interview next year with Relativity Space, their additive manufacturing approach is very unique

  47. Stubby Phillips

    I gotta say it again… Having an interviewer who really understands what the interviewee is talking about is WAY WAY WAY FREAKING BETTER than the superficial fluff we get from big media and NASA. Thanks Tim!

  48. How Does it Really Work

    Very interesting video! A quick summary of some Firefly propulsion facts:

    *ENGINE GENERAL INFO:* US combustion chamber, Ukrainian turbo-machinery. Tap-off cycle.

    11:15 This engine uses a pintle injector

    32:36 Combustion chamber runs at 1300 psi (90 Bar) Tap off 1100 psi (75 Bar) expands to about 30 psi (2 Bar) in the turbine

    7:38 The temperature in the thrust chamber is 3000C, but the temperature of the gas fed to the turbine is 600C. This is achieved without any additional dilution of tapped off gas — it just happens so due to the natural topology of the injector flows in the thrust chamber. [This is not quite clear — the patent which Tom refers to, describes the upper stage “Lightning” engine, which does use tap-off gas dilution with fuel, and does not have the same injector.]

    7:33 2.3 O/F ratio (36:23) 2.2 O/F in the first flight, but also run at 2.4-2.5 in tests.

    30:50 The turbine rotates at 33K RPM, developing 900 HP [the torque is just under 200Nm, the total force acting on the blades on the order of 150 kgf]

    6:43 11:42 The engine does not throttle, except for a little bit, by changing the pressure in the tanks. [Probably because the turbine is fed from the thrust chamber tap-off and depends on subtlety of the flow patterns at the engine head, this coupling makes thrust control much more difficult. That’s one of the reasons why tap-off cycle is so rarely used.]

    9:35 Turbine is started by Nitrogen spin start. Very low spin start is required before the engine bootstraps. “Could plug the nozzle to help it”

    *THRUST CHAMBER*

    6:02 11:00 Thrust chamber is high strength copper alloy liner [usually Copper-Zirconium-Chromium bronze in the USA] with nickel-cobalt electroplated on it. (Inspired by Shuttle main engine technology)

    29:19 A forging for the thrust chamber liner. (narration at 26:42) it starts as a rough shape weighing about 600 kg. After machining the weight becomes approximately 40 kg.

    31:58 24:47 Copper alloy engine liner at the machining area, (on the left). Lots of shavings!

    35:58 “We can run the [combustion chamber] barrels without film cooling. In some engines we had film cooling in the throat area, where the heat flux is the greatest.”

    36:52 On film cooling orifices and chamber fabrication technology: “The chamber will have cooling channels milled into it and then we will put wax in those channels and then we’ll electroplate nickel over that, and then we’ll melt the wax out now you’ve got channels. That’s how we make our cooling channels. Before you put the wax on when you have those channels if you just go a little bit above the throat and use 12 mil electro-discharge machining wire and just pop little holes through those cooling channels into the chamber before you plate it now you plate it and in those channels you have an array of little tiny holes above the converging section and that will inject jets of cold fuel.”

    26:13 “Just hired a new machine shop manager, who has experience in mass production of thrust chambers. Will be buying some new machinery that will allow to machine thrust chambers in hours instead of days that it takes now.”

    27:12 3D printing of the liner of this size is still not economical. [Launcher Space 3D prints a similar engine — even using the turbopump from the same Ukrainian source.)]

    *WARM GAS TAP OFF FROM COMBUSTION CHAMBER TO DRIVE THE TURBINE*

    16:25 Tap off cycle was Firefly’s call — “fortunately it worked”.

    8:36 Tom talks about “not having any soot” but also seems to imply fuel rich gas; [But the original Ukranian turbine was designed for oxygen-rich cycle!] Says “we never had coking in the turbine” comparing to Gas Generators running at 0.3 O/F ratio and “puking soot.”

    30:02 Inconel tap-off manifolds on the shop floor. (narration at 25:30) Machined from forgings, will be 3D printed in the future.

    *TURBOPUMP*

    5:38 Soviet heritage turbomachinery [from RD-8 vernier engine of Zenit, developed in Ukraine] 200 people work[ed] on it in Ukraine for Firefly.

    17:50 “the turbopump is clean-sheet design” [Starting as Soviet RD-8 engine, becoming Ukranian RD-809K engine, and now used in several engines all over the world — in Korea, Germany and USA] Tom explains that LOX and RP-1 pumps are separate units, joined together by a coupler. [See cross-section of the RD-8 turbopump.]

    30:50 Turbine wheel being made using the machining center. The turbine rotates at 33K RPM, developing 900 HP

    ===============

    *MISC. TRIVIA*

    20:44 Bulk LOX is super friendly, it even puts fires out. But hot oxygen gas burns the engine up in a white flash of light in a second.

    33:46 At moderate combustion pressures (1300 psi) soot-carbon combustion products LOX/RP-1 condense on the walls of combustion chamber and form a natural thermal barrier which inhibits heat transfer. At higher pressures or higher O/F ratios this beneficial soot formation does not occur.

    34:54 LOX-RP is amazing. Impulse density is on par with everything. In the balance of things, methane is a hassle.

    37:45 In other engines, Tom have seen engine liner erosion that sometimes produced fuel leaks which provided film cooling preventing further erosion, after which engine ran happily.

    51:00 Wasps cause serious problems by plugging with mud the vents that are necessary for actuating engine valves! Was a problem at SpaceX McGregor, caused engines to blow up. Must have screens on all vents!

    21:37 Modern US metallurgy allows to create oxygen-rich staged combustion without special coatings.

    22:45 Aerojet-Rocketdyne brazing oven for the combustion chambers, the largest in the world. Will allow to switch from electroplated nickel-cobalt thrust chambers to brazed steel jacketed engines.

    5:24 The configuration of four engines gimballed in one axis each is inspired by looking at many Soviet rockets, where it is a common design.

  49. WeAre Paramore

    I love him, he is just as passionate as elon, I’m really hoping for their next launch to succeed

  50. Stephen Gloor

    Wonderful interview. BTW the nitty gritty details of the motors was total gold. Please keep doing this.

    Not holding my breath for the Bezos Blue Origin walkthrough. 😀

  51. Rob Gater

    Awesome interview Tim as usual. I note that Firefly, like Spacex actually have people building stuff with lots of gear around as you would expect.. a vast difference from Blue Origin which has a nice shiny concrete floor!

  52. ayhanavci

    I love hands on CEOs who actually know what his company is doing on a technical details level.

  53. LadyK OH

    It sounds like Tom Markusic has learned a lot from working for Elon at SpaceX’s rocket engine department in how to speed rocket development up. Develop, test, learn, repeat and try new ways of doing the most with the least parts. Really cool that Tom worked with past Soviet rocket engine scientist, from the Ukraine, for designing a key part of the current engine! Thanks Tim for interviewing the heads of various Rocket companies and showing how there methods are different and where they are the same.

  54. Levy Srugo

    “So cool!”
    This in-depth content is great. Thanks Tim and Tom!

  55. Gwyrrd

    Amazing video Tim ! Great interview skills.
    Loved how open Tom is about showing and explaining stuff. Kudos to y’all at Firefly Aerospace

  56. Jack Beyer

    This is such a good video! So many interesting tidbits. Props to Firefly for letting you do this and being so open, Tim. Tom is such a likable and interesting guy. Cant wait for flight 2!

  57. Marcel Huguenin

    This was a great tour! Thank you Tom Markusic and thank you Tim Dodd, I enjoyed it greatly.

  58. TheCrjflyr

    Watching Tom Markusic grinning while the rocket was running was the best part of this video, and the rest of the video is awesome. That dude is now my favorite rocket CEO other than Elon. He really loves what he’s doing and it shows. That was one of the best interviews Tim has ever done.

  59. roberson644

    Talking rockets while sipping on a monster, my kind of rocket engineer lol.

  60. Jonathan Dirks

    I love how you guys started right by the engine that was lit at the end of the interview. Really tied the whole interview together.

  61. VFX Soup

    Tim, PLEASE DO THIS WITH JEFF BEZOS. It would only be a 2 minute video but Jeff would still learn a lot.

  62. Russ Cooke

    I like this guy, he seems to respect his fellow rocket leaders in a way that Im not sure they would in return.

  63. vonSmash

    Hey Tim, just wanted to pop in here and say: You’re the best! 🥰

  64. Arda G

    Wasps, the last thing you want to see in a rocket engine failure analysis.

  65. babstra55

    I just love so much that we have tim asking actual engineering questions instead of the usual lifestyle fluff any other media would ask.

  66. Vincent Molloy

    Another legendary interview Tim. Well done and well done to Tom for taking the time to explain some of this stuff to us. Learnt a lot about rocket engines just from this interview. Well done to the Firefly team. Cant wait for their next launch.

  67. Kalzsom

    Amazing video again! Also, rocket engines firing up and doing their stuff never gets old.

  68. Simon White

    I’ve always thought that a good interviewer knows when to keep quiet and let the interviewee do the talking. Nice job Tim (& Tom). Thank you.

  69. TexanUSMC8089

    Outstanding interview. I’m a much bigger fan of Firefly now. Tom isn’t just a CEO, he’s an engineer. Well done Tom and Tim.

  70. Cliff Cordes

    “It’s always the connector” My mantra for electronics repair for over 50 years.

  71. Roberto Preatoni

    With all those space channels popping up daily on YT, all of them giving reduntant but almost real time information, it’s nice to see that EverydayAstronaut chose to go for quality over quantity.

  72. Marshall Rapp

    I’m so glad you’re living your dream. You’ve worked hard and it’s paying off big time.

  73. PiDsMedia

    Blurred sections, rather then awkward jump-cuts – GREAT CHOICE :)
    It lets the interview keep flowing, rather then loosing content, even though it’s more work in post-prod. That work is appreciated, by the viewers, and no doubt by the companies, as they know they can trust EDA to keep corporate secrets under wraps, meaning they are more likely to repeat the offers of access, and that gets us all in-depth content.
    Edit: 800+ views when starting to watch, 5000+ by the time I finish,…

  74. nfn worldpeace

    so when are you going to make a ” wasps against human spacetravel ” shirt? :D this was so good Tim!

  75. Hugo

    I so hope this is going to become a series just a day walking with rocket company ceos

  76. Ethan McCowan

    I have the amazing opportunity to interview with Firefly in the coming weeks. It’s crazy to think that I’m going from watching Tim’s videos to interviewing with a company like this, and all my knowledge comes from you, Tim! Keep up the great work!

  77. Wayne Steed

    Love that Firefly is open book about how their company operates.

  78. Jonas Larsson

    Imagine a black Firefly rocket with a massive green Monster logo on it going to orbit.

  79. STEPHEN SULEY

    I can’t help but compare this interview to the 3 part series Tim just did with Elon. Both are great for their own reasons, I enjoy this one for how well spoken Tom is and how is and how clearly he is able to explain all the details and specs in plain English with little to no jargon. Elon, whom I admire, I have to admit is a bit harder to follow andthe listener must work harder to extract all the details.

  80. Starship

    I love the fact that the guy who worked at the engine wore a space x shirt! Don’t sue your opponents, show that you like them (Blue Origin…)

  81. harryithinkVR

    “We’ll cut that out don’t worry”

    Haha *NOPE*

  82. Bruno Oliveira

    19:03 rocking a spacex shirt!!!! just tells you how much spacex opened the space business to so many people and companies!!!

  83. Test Pilot Ian

    19:40 love the way Tom takes a double take at one of his rocket engineers sporting a SpaceX T-shirt then just moves on as if it’s nothing unusual lol

  84. Captain Cork

    Love the fact that one of the guys working on the engine is wearing a SpaceX t-shirt. Go team space!

  85. Boom Boom Pants

    Jeez Tim, your just killing lately. We all seriously appreciate the work you and you’re teams do

  86. Myst

    Why do I get emotional when a CEO becomes upfront honnest and passionate?
    This should be the baseline, I should not feel surprised and happy about it :D

  87. Robin Klein

    wow, awesome. i love the way Everyday Astronaut makes all these thing so accessible for us. i’ve learned so much from this channel and make me so excited for space!

  88. buttonsjr

    Compare these tours with Destin’s tour of the ULA factory, these companies are not worried at all about showing things because they know it doesnt do any good to see the parts.

  89. tanchos

    From a small photographer and now today you collab with Elon Musk and interviewing space CEO’s, Tim you are truly bringing space down to earth.

  90. Robotron25a

    So cool to see! A previous president of my rocketry club works at Firefly now and bragged about getting a picture with you Tim! Makes the whole commercial space industry seem more down to earth, yet somehow even more amazing!

    Keep up the great content!

  91. Jonathan Schreifels

    Tim coming in with the clutch upload timing once again. Just got on my break at work to find this beauty in my notifications. Already know it’s gonna be a banger

  92. Kyle Kane

    I was just about to put out MISSING PERSON flyers for Tim Dodd,
    About Time you resurfaced with something buddy…looking forward to watching this!!

  93. StarX Rocketry

    You have such a great style in asking these geniuses questions that allow them to share their thought process behind the innovation they are creating. Keep Up the great work.

  94. Jon Noble

    That was a great interview and fair play to him he was so open and transparent. I see an exciting future for Firefly aerospace. Thanks again Tim for the content.

  95. Endymion

    This just shows that Tim’s attitude towards being genuinely “team space” resonates with people in the industry. They want to talk to him, they like that he’s excited about what they’re working on, and that he has knowledge about their work. Great work as always Tim! Still really looking forward to your History of Soviet Rocket Engines, maybe this year eh? XD

  96. Chris Toal

    Thanks Tim, again like Elon’s interviews really insightful learned more about Firefly in twenty minutes than all the normal media for five years. Earplugs next time maybe, lol. I know you don’t normally, but can you DM me when you get a chance. I have something to share with you that might be a story. Gadget NZ

  97. Ryan Hamstra

    43:10 “we didn’t wanna just go to Alaska and start blowing stuff up” wow, throw some shade at astra there!! Lol

  98. MidwestNerd

    Firefly has officially won me over. Soviet propulsion tech, the beautiful rocket itself, and I just love smallsat launchers. I’d love to work there as facility maintenance

    That bit about oxygen rich was interesting

  99. Rad Daks

    What’s with rocket company CEOs being so awesome? Tory Bruno, Peter Beck, Elon Musk, and now Tom Markusic. Hats off to these people for being awesome and engaged with the space community.

  100. Family Popio

    This is the full nerding out I’m here for!

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