Firefly Aerospace rocket engine test ends in fire (video)

Firefly Aerospace is opening up about a fire that broke out during a recent rocket engine test, releasing video of the event as the company investigates the failure's cause. 

The fire occurred Wednesday (Jan. 22) during a "hot-fire" test of Firefly's Alpha rocket, a booster designed for small satellite launches. The exercise at Firefly's proving grounds in Briggs, Texas was designed to test the Alpha's four first-stage Reaver engines with a short 5-second firing. 

Firefly Aerospace's video of the hot-fire, which it released on Twitter Thursday (Jan. 23), shows a fire erupting from the left of the view as the engine test began. 

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Firefly Aerospace suffered a small fire (seen at upper left) in the engine bay of a test stand in Briggs, Texas during a Reaver rocket engine test for the new Alpha rocket.  (Image credit: Firefly Aerospace)

"At 6:23 pm local time, the stage's engines were fired, and a fire broke out in the engine bay at the base of the rocket's stage," Firefly representatives wrote in a statement. "The 5-second test was immediately aborted and the test facility’s fire suppression system extinguished the fire."

No one was injured by the fire and Firefly employees and the public were never in danger, the company said. The Alpha rocket stage and the test stand also remain in intact, they added. 

"Firefly is coordinating closely with local authorities and emergency response personnel as it investigates the anomaly and refines its contingency procedures," Firefly representatives said. 

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Firefly is developing the Alpha rocket powered by Reaver engines to launch payloads of up to 2,220 lbs. (1,000 kilograms) to low Earth orbit. The 95-foot-tall (29 meters) Alpha will launch from a Firefly pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The company is also in the early design stages for a larger rocket, called Beta, that would be capable of delivering up to 8,800 lbs (4,400 kg) to low Earth orbit. 

Before last week's engine test fire, Firefly was aiming for a debut launch of the Alpha booster by April, with a second flight to follow in June. Those launches will likely have to wait until Firefly completes its investigation into the Jan. 22 fire and wraps up its Reaver testing program. 

"The cause of the anomaly is under investigation. Firefly engineers are reviewing test data from the stage to identify potential causes for the test failure, and Firefly will share results of that investigation once it is complete," the company has said. 

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.