Firefly Aerospace has successfully conducted the first static fire test of its next-generation Miranda Engine, designed to propel the first stage of its upcoming MLV launch vehicle and the Antares 330, a new version of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket. This achievement poses the Firefly company as a key player in space exploration and inside the global market of launchers.
The test was carried out in Texas at the company’s facilities, bringing the engine up to 65% of its power. Full duration tests are scheduled for the coming months in which the engine will be brought to its maximum power, for an operational time of 206 seconds.
The Firefly crew completed our 1st Miranda hot fire! 7 of these 230,000 lbf engines will power the 1st stage of @northropgrumman's Antares 330 & the Medium Launch Vehicle we're developing together. More to come as we work towards a full-duration hot fire. https://t.co/0XzKoXV9pP— Firefly Aerospace (@Firefly_Space) November 28, 2023
“Upgrading the first stage of Antares in parallel with developing the Medium Launch Vehicle enables our two companies to bring a new launch vehicle to market more rapidly while also reducing risk in the design process.”— Scott Lehr, general manager in the department of launch and missile defense systems at Northrop Grumman
Named after the moon of Uranus, this engine represents the culmination of intensive research and development in the field of propulsion systems. Indeed, Firefly Aerospace’s engineers transformed the concept into a concrete reality in just over 12 months. In the process of development, they have meticulously crafted this engine with a focus on enhancing efficiency, payload capacity, and overall performance.
Miranda is designed to generate 1.6 million pounds of thrust across seven engines for the Antares 330’s first stage, and 200 thousand pounds of thrust in the vacuum engine version for the Medium Launch Vehicle’s upper stage which uses RP-1 and LOX as its propellants (put differently, it will provide 890 kN with an ISP of 328 sec). The latter, as an indispensable characteristic, is designed to be re-lightable for missions requiring multiple upper-stage burns.
Upcoming projects of Firefly Aerospace
With the successful test of the Miranda Engine, Firefly Aerospace is now part of the competitive aerospace landscape. The perspective is focused on deploying this new technology for commercial satellite launches and interplanetary missions.MLV launcher, which will be 55.7 meters tall and will have a 5.2-meter payload fairing, will have its maiden flight in late 2025, and it will be able to place up to 16,000 kg into Low Earth Orbit, versus the 10,000 kg of the Antares 330.
“The incredible progress on our Miranda engines- designed, built, and tested in just over a year- is another example of Firefly setting a new standard in the industry.”— Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace
Furthermore, Firefly Aerospace imposed itself to develop an engine whose technology is committed to environmental sustainability, indeed Miranda incorporates eco-friendly features, aligned with the industry’s growing emphasis on responsible space exploration.