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Firefly Aerospace completes first Miranda Engine hot fire test
Company designs, builds, and tests fully assembled Miranda engine in just over 12 months for Antares 330 and new Medium Launch Vehicle
Firefly Aerospace completes first Miranda Engine hot fire test
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Nov 30, 2023

Firefly Aerospace, Inc., has marked a significant achievement in its propulsion technology with the completion of the first hot fire test of the Miranda engine. This pivotal development comes just over a year after the initial contract signing, underscoring the company's rapid progress in aerospace technology.

The Miranda engine, a turbopump-fed system, is set to be a key component in the first stage of Northrop Grumman's Antares 330 rocket and the co-developed Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV). This hot fire test serves as a crucial validation for the engine's startup sequence, transient conditions, and its tap-off engine architecture, particularly at an escalated scale.

As Firefly Aerospace prepares for a comprehensive, full-duration 206-second Miranda hot fire test, the industry watches with anticipation. The successful qualification of these engines, each capable of delivering 230,000 pounds of force (lbf), will cumulatively produce a staggering 1.6 million lbf of thrust for the Antares 330 and MLV's first stage. Furthermore, the MLV's second stage will be powered by a singular Miranda vacuum engine, delivering 200,000 lbf.

Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace, expressed his enthusiasm about the rapid development and testing of the Miranda engines, noting, "The incredible progress on our Miranda engines - designed, built, and tested in house in just over a year - is another example of Firefly setting a new standard in the industry." He further highlighted the significance of this achievement, positioning it as a continuation of the legacy set by Firefly's Reaver and Lightning engines.

The Miranda engine represents not just a technical advancement but also a testament to Firefly's integrated approach to propulsion systems. This approach has enabled the company to scale up from its Alpha small launch vehicle to the more robust Medium Launch Vehicle efficiently.

Complementing the engine development, Firefly is also spearheading the design and manufacturing of the first stage structures for the Antares 330, as well as the structures and fluids systems for both stages of the MLV. To facilitate this expansive production, the company is doubling its facility size at the Briggs, Texas rocket test and production site. The introduction of new automated manufacturing equipment, including an operational Automated Fiber Placement machine, drastically cuts down the production time for carbon composite barrels from weeks to mere days.

Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager of launch and missile defense systems at Northrop Grumman, underscored the partnership's significance, stating, "Together, we have developed a solution that will help change the trajectory of space launch, from commercial to national security and civil space." This collaboration aims to bring the new launch vehicle to market more rapidly while concurrently mitigating design process risks.

The Antares 330 is poised to enhance cargo delivery capabilities to the International Space Station, with a capacity exceeding 10,000 kilograms and its inaugural flight scheduled for mid-2025. The MLV, deemed the evolutionary successor to the Antares launch vehicle, is expected to make its first launch in late 2025. It promises a payload capacity of over 16,000 kilograms to low Earth orbit and features a 5-meter class payload fairing customizable to customer specifications.

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