The Esrange Fire on 26 August
21 October 2021
Due to an internal report that has now been sent to the Swedish Work Environment Authority, we would here like to provide some further information about the fire at Esrange in August.
In connection with a performance test of a rocket engine, something that is regularly carried out at Esrange, the engine tore out of the attachment and hit the Skylark tunnel. The burning engine started a fire that spread further to the Skylark tower and the Skylark hall. The test team immediately called the Fire Department and started extinguishing the fire according to current safety and rescue routines. They also brought away the rocket engine that was prepared for the next test. All the staff lined up in a fantastic way to help save material from the fire.
Did anyone get hurt?
No, no one was physically injured, fortunately. We have had reactions among the personnel and that is natural after an event like this. After conversations with the directly affected staff, the perception is that they are fine given the circumstances. After the fire, three employees were taken to the hospital for check-up and they were confirmed to be unharmed by the incident and sent home. The contractors who were on site were taken care of by their respective employers.
Will the buildings be rebuilt?
We are reviewing the possibilities to relocate all payload operations from the area around the main building when we rebuild again.
What does the report say now?
We have appointed an external investigation and preliminary results indicate: The attachment on which the rocket engine was clamped failed to hold the engine during the test. This caused the engine to break free from the attachment. A similar rocket engine that was test fired successfully three days earlier did not show any deficiencies or increased safety risks. However, the rocket engine that caused the fire turned out to have greater power than what we had expected, which caused the motor attachment to fail.
What are you doing now?
Immediately after the fire, we initiated an internal project which intends to rebuild the sounding rocket launch capability with minimum configuration already this year. At the same time, we also started an external investigation to determine the cause of the incident. This investigation is led by foreign specialists within the field of sounding rockets and the investigation report is expected to be finalized within a couple of weeks.
What measures are you taking right now?
If the external investigation indicates shortcomings in our routines and way of working and recommended preventive actions, we will of course take those into account and implement measures accordingly.
Update: 28 August, 2021
On Friday afternoon at 5 pm local time, a small fire flared up again from the sparks from yesterday's fire at Esrange. The flames were discovered by the on-duty Esrange guard and Rescue Services were quickly on site and extinguished the fire in about an hour. The fire arose from embers that remained in the wooden facade inside the part of the facility that burned yesterday, which for safety reasons have been sealed off since. Shortly after 7 pm, the area was secured and the Rescue Services left Esrange.
Press Relase, 27 August 2021
After the Esrange fire: Only sounding rocket operations affected
The fire that broke out yesterday morning at Esrange during a scheduled static firing test of a solid rocket motor, partially damaged the infrastructure used for launching sounding rockets. The remaining operations at Esrange, which is one of the world's most versatile space bases, are not affected by the incident.
Esrange Space Center is one of the world's most versatile space bases, including a number of functions that are important to our society. The base is currently being expanded with new capability for further utilization of space.
The fire did not cause any damages to the majority of the ongoing operations at Esrange. Satellite operations and communications, stratospheric balloons and the newly established rocket testing facility was not affected, nor was the ongoing expansion for the planned satellite launches.
However, the fire caused damage to parts of the launching facility for sounding rockets (rockets conducting research in microgravity) used at Esrange since the 60’s, as well as parts of the nearby buildings. No one was injured in the incident.
“Most important is that our staff and everyone else who were at the base are safe. But there are many sad faces at Esrange today. The sounding rocket operations is somewhat the heart of Esrange since this was where it all began more than fifty years ago”, says Lennart Poromaa, Esrange Site Manager.
The Rescue Services left the site late Thursday evening. An investigation is now being carried out to find the cause of the accident and evaluate how to resume the sounding rocket operations.
“It is still too early to say what caused the fire. SSC will seek external assistance to investigate the incident together with our own experts, in order to avoid similar incidents in the future”, says Stefan Gardefjord, SSC CEO.
“Now, it is important to resume our sounding rocket operations as quickly as possible. These rockets carry important experiments for research purposes within various areas. We are now working intensively to see how we can resume this part of our business again”, says Lennart Poromaa.
Philip Ohlsson, Press Contact SSC, +46 (0) 70-721 70 26, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anni Bölenius, Head of Communications SSC, +46 (0) 73-073 033 74 90, email@example.com
Update: 27 August, 2021
The remainder of the fire were extinguished Thursday evening by the Rescue Service who then left Esrange premises at 11.30 pm local time. Work has now begun to resume sounding rocket operations as soon as possible.
26 Augusti, 2021
Fire at Esrange Space Center
During a scheduled static firing test of a solid rocket motor, a fire broke out in the southern part of the base area affecting surrounding buildings. The fire is now under control and post-extinguishing work is being carried out by the Rescue Service, who continue to monitor the situation to prevent further spread.
The fire started on Thursday morning at 09.30 in the southern part of the base area which has been used since the 60's to launch sounding rockets for research purposes.
No reported injuries
All personnel who were in the affected area are deemed to be safe and no injuries have been reported but some members of staff have been taken to Kiruna Hospital for health control.
The fire has caused damages to the older part of the sounding rocket launching infrastructure at Esrange. The full extent of damages and consequences for launching operations cannot yet be assessed. Neither satellite operations nor the newly established testbeds for rocket technology, the construction site for reusability and future satellite launching or the balloon launch infrastructure are affected by the fire.
This information will be updated as the situation evolves.