Firefly Aerospace Selects Three Educational Payloads as Part of DREAM Program

Firefly Aerospace Selects Three Educational Payloads as Part of DREAM Program

Firefly Aerospace, an end-to-end space transportation company, announced that it has selected three educational payloads to launch aboard Firefly’s Alpha rocket as early as 2025. As part of Firefly’s DREAM (Dedicated Research Education Accelerator Mission) program, Firefly is donating excess capacity on its Alpha launch vehicle to fly CubeSats from the University of Illinois, Auburn University, and the Aerospace and Innovation Academy in Florida.

“Firefly is dedicated to making space attainable for everyone, including our future workforce,” said Shea Ferring, Chief Technology Officer at Firefly Aerospace. “By providing a free ride on Alpha, we help kickstart satellite programs and robotics clubs that have a monumental impact on students’ career trajectories and our industry at large. Ultimately, our goal is to inspire students, allow them to gain hands-on experience, and help them realize that becoming a ‘rocket scientist’ is achievable with the right mix of grit, creativity, and technical fundamentals.”

In line with Firefly’s mission to make space for everyone, the DREAM program was established in 2019 to encourage students to develop an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). DREAM eliminates the cost of entry for launch, allowing educational institutions to focus on developing and operating a small satellite program and training the next generation of aerospace engineers. The first round of DREAM payloads flew on Firefly’s Alpha FLTA001 rocket in 2021.

The second round of DREAM payloads selected to fly on Alpha rockets as early as 2025 include the following three CubeSats. A fourth DREAM payload will be announced at the 4S Symposium in May 2024.  

  • University of Illinois’ DarkNESS CubeSat will look for a dark matter decay signature in the form of 3.5 keV X-rays emanating from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Using cryogenically cooled Skipper Charged-Coupled Devices developed by Fermilab, a student-led team within the university’s Laboratory for Advanced Space Systems at Illinois (LASSI) is working to complete a critical design review for the satellite this summer. According to LASSI’s Director, Dr. Michael Lembeck, “the satellite will be the first to search for the source of dark matter using this novel technology for X-ray astronomy observations in low earth orbit.”
  • Aerospace and Innovation Academy’s WolfSat-1 CubeSat will test the viability of the Ideonella sakaiensis bacteria on orbit and assess its ability to degrade polyethylene terephthalate, a major component of single-use plastics. This demonstration aims to enable an efficient waste recycling system for prolonged crewed missions and minimize the risk of plastic pollution in future lunar and Martian colonies. Overseen by the Aerospace and Innovation Academy, the Wolfpack CubeSat Development Team is a nonprofit organization that prepares 11- to 18-year-old students to design, build, test, and fly CubeSats before graduating high school. The students will develop the WolfSat-1 payload, integrated on a NearSpace satellite bus, with assistance from the Florida Institute of Technology and students at the University of Florida.
  • Auburn University’s ASTRA-ETHERA CubeSat will demonstrate a compact, low-cost electrodynamic tether to enable satellite deorbiting within five years of mission completion. The deployable device utilizes the plasma surrounding Earth in addition to the Earth’s magnetic field to induce a force on the tether, reducing the lifetime of spacecraft in orbit from decades to a few years. This approach will allow satellites to operate in higher orbital altitudes and meet deorbiting compliance regulations. Dozens of students ranging from freshmen to graduate students within the university’s Small Satellite Program will support payload development, testing, and mission operations.

“Firefly’s DREAM program offers a unique real-world educational experience for smallsat development, surpassing simulated missions,” said Michael Fogle Jr., Professor of Physics at Auburn University. “With tangible deadlines and the excitement of contributing to orbit-bound projects, students gain vital project management and engineering skills essential for the expanding space industry.”

Click here to learn more about all the updates of Firefly Aerospace's DREAM Program.

Publisher: SatNow

GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013