Firefly Aerospace (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) Thursday (Jan. 23), shows a fire erupting from the left of the view as the engine test began.
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"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.
Inspecting Alpha and test stand after last night's anomaly. pic.twitter.com/KwDOrQRjduJanuary 24, 2020
Firefly is developing the Alpha rocket (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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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