A Day in the Life of a Hot Fire, Part Four: Roles

So far this week, we have discussed the build-up to a hot fire.

Today, we’ll talk about the roles we play in the process.


In the bunker, a wall of video monitors gives the test crew excellent situational awareness. Cameras are placed to accommodate the specific test and points of interest. If needed, high speed and infrared cameras gather additional data. And on the radio, crew members are called-out by their positions.

Crew positions, roles and responsibilities for each hot fire include the following:

  • Control: Runs the control box and actually commands the rocket engine to fire.
  • DAQ: Runs the Data Acquisition Unit which records data from instruments on the stand. They are also responsible for displaying the data for instant review by the test crew after the test.
  • Red Team: This team directly interacts with the test stand while everyone else is inside the bunker. They return to the bunker during pressurization and during the actual hotfire.
  • Test Czar: This individual is in charge of the test and has the final say on go  / no-go conditions, and sets the test objectives and parameters. Acts as a safety net for the rest of the team, considering all possible risks before giving the green light.
  • Spotter: Acts as an additional safety check and spends most of the day seated on top of the bunker to keep an eye out for anyone approaching the test site. The spotter makes sure that the area down range of the rocket engine remains clear, and is only called-in just before the actual test.
  • Video: In charge of setting up and maintaining all the video feeds from the test site. The objective is to make sure to record all of the video during press, chill and hotfire.
  • Checklist: Acts as the pace setter for the test.  By reading  the checklist methodically and accurately they set the tempo for the test day. The checklist contains all of the commands for all of the other positions except the Test Czar.
  • Safety: The primary safety officer in charge of ensuring all  protocols are followed for the whole test. Safety may stop a test at anytime for any reason if they feel the crew or the uninvolved public are at risk.

Next up, the hot fire!