Last Thursday Firefly Aerospace tested the second stage of its Alpha rocket. [credit:
Edwards Media ]
Last Thursday, on a green expanse at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, Firefly Aerospace prepared to test the second stage of its Alpha rocket. After years of development, engineers bolted the rocket stage to a vertical test stand and began to feed kerosene and liquid oxygen into the engine.
Then, for 300 seconds, the rocket’s Lightning-1 engine fired, blowing white and yellow flame out of its exhaust nozzle. The five-minute test demonstrated the performance of the engine and upper stage over an entire cycle of flight in space, during which the upper stage would boost a satellite and insert into orbit.
During the test, all of the second stage’s flight avionics, structures, and propulsion systems were subjected to a sustained firing consistent with a normal flight mission. According to Firefly, preliminary analysis of data from the test show that all of the rocket’s systems performed nominally, and a post-test inspection revealed no observable degradation of the stage systems.