At one stage in our lives, we have all faced the struggle of trying to light birthday candles with uncooperative wicks and a tiny match that won't stay alight. Most of us would just persevere through a few burnt fingertips or style it out with a joke about how we’ve knocked a few years off the recipient’s age by leaving the candles unlit. But when you’re a rocket scientist there’s another option available… blast the candles with a super powerful engine.
In a video to celebrate one of their co-founders’ birthday, employees at Firefly Aerospace decided that the only way to bypass the candle conundrum was to light all of them at once – with their Lightning rocket engine. Preparations involved the careful positioning of the cake, the meticulous placement of the candles, and the all-important countdown (which begins at 1:30 in the video FYI).
Although the cake was left a little charred, and the candles blown clean off the cake, if I were Dr Max Polyakov I’d be pretty impressed with that birthday message.
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Firefly Aerospace develops rockets to launch small payloads into space. Indeed, back in 2018, they were among nine companies awarded a contract with NASA to bid to send new payloads to study the Moon. Their concept launch vehicle with Moon lander, named Genesis, received initial funding with the announcement, and will reportedly complete its first flight at the end of 2022.
The Lightning engine featured in the birthday stunt was actually part of a different rocket, Firefly Alpha. This rocket is designed to deliver a 1,000 kilogram (2,200 pounds) load to Low Earth Orbit for the princely sum of $15 million. With its test launch scheduled for later this year, it could soon be sending satellites to orbit twice every month.
However, Firefly has proven one thing already – that lighting candles may be even harder than rocket science.