A Day in the Life of a Hot Fire, Part One: Morning prep and checklists


Brandon Litt (R) and Mike Valant (L) move the stand out from the XCOR hangar. 

Welcome to a day in the life of a hot fire. This is a journey through the experience of a test day where we work on a new, experimental rocket engine.

Due to the fact that the rocket engine is currently being proven, we maintain a very high level of safety protocols during each test. Once we’ve proven to ourselves that the engine is “maturing” we perform tests with our team members in closer proximity. In the future we will perform rocket engine firings with people onboard Lynx. But right now, we are showing you those first early engine firings when you need to expect the unexpected.

On the morning of a hot fire, the hangar is abuzz with activity. Members of the test team start to arrive around 6:30AM and begin to check and double check equipment and procedures. The team reviews what they will do, and everyone prepares for the day.

At around 7AM, the Lynx truss is rolled out of the hangar, and fueled-up with liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene. In the meantime, the test truck and vehicle convoy are loaded with all of the support equipment needed – tools, data acquisition, control box, safety equipment — in short, everything required to complete a test.

There are checklists for everything, including equipment inventory, stand setup, pressurization, hot fire, and shutdown. These checklists add safety and take the guesswork out of operations, and are a standard item in the world of aerospace testing and operations.

Tomorrow, take a trip out to the test stand and spend an afternoon with us.