At the Mojave Air and Space Port, the second stage of a launch vehicle being developed by ABL Space Systems was destroyed during a test anomaly on January 19.
Smoke was seen by locals in the area and spotted on wildfire spotting webcams.
The smoke quickly prompted speculation and concern, as the spaceport is home to multiple companies, including Stratolaunch and Virgin Orbit.
The Airport quickly confirmed there were no injuries, and the president of ABL Space Systems confirmed to Space News that the smoke was the result of an anomaly during the test of a second stage of the company’s rocket.
“This afternoon we lost Stage 2 of RS1 in a test anomaly,” he told SpaceNews. “Everyone is safe and the team did an admirable job navigating the anomaly working to safe the test stand.”
Test to success
While it is easy to look at a plume of black smoke and hear ‘test anomaly’ and think all doom and gloom, testing is an essential part of the development of rockets.
While, clearly, avoiding failure during testing would be ideal, these tests occur in controlled ways to ensure the safety of everyone and to work out potential issues before customer payloads are on board – better a single lost second stage than a completely lost rocket and payload.
Just yesterday, January 18, SpaceX had its own test to failure:
ABL Space Systems’ RS1
ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket is a two-stage launch liquid fueled rocket. The small liquid oxygen and kerosene fueled rocket is meant to be low cost, at $12 million per launch, and is capable of carrying 1,350kg to low Earth orbit.
The rocket has not yet flown, but it is meant to be easily deployable from sites in Florida, California, Alaska, and the UK for various required orbits.
Featured image credit: AlertWildfire.org