October 2, 2023 6:00 am
Observe a Rocket Engine Test in Unbelievably Slow Motion

Rocket ignitions are often captivating, but observing them with the naked eye can be challenging for obvious reasons. The extreme temperatures and blinding brightness make it impossible to be near them. Fortunately, high-speed video technology allows curious individuals to witness the intricate, beautiful, and potentially frightening process of rocket ignition.

The Slow Mo Guys, a popular YouTube channel specializing in slow-motion videos, recently had the opportunity to capture a test ignition of Firefly Aerospace’s Reaver engine. Unlike their previous projects, this endeavor required extensive planning. With rockets consuming large amounts of fuel and resources, the team only had one chance to film the ignition. Additionally, they had to carefully position and rig the camera to ensure the safety of everyone involved. An enclosure capable of withstanding the intense heat and vibrations was specially designed to house their slow-motion camera. To handle the brightness of the explosion, the equipment had to be calibrated, and the film was intentionally exposed over 40 percent darker than usual.

The meticulous preparation yielded remarkable results in the footage. At 2,000 frames-per-second, the video showcases an initial bright green flame. This occurs when a rocket fuel mixture called triethylaluminium-triethylborane (TEA-TEB) combusts upon contact with oxygen and air. Following the green burst, yellow and orange flames become visible. Due to the slow framerate, viewers can witness the flames reacting to the shockwaves generated by the engine thrust. The immense power of a rocket engine is highlighted, as it can produce over 45,000 lbs of thrust in a vacuum at temperatures reaching as high as 5,500 F.

Leave a Reply