On 11 April 1994 at 1534 hours, an incident occurred during Vulcain engine development testing. Fifteen seconds into the second test on the M6-R1 revalidated prototype on the PF50 stand at SEP (Vernon), a fire broke out at the site of the liquid oxygen turbopump.
The test management system operated perfectly, triggering a safety shutdown. Initial inspection showed considerable damage to the LOX turbopump as well as to various engine and stand equipment and cables.
Analysis of the measurements recorded and inspection of the hardware are under way with a view to determining what caused the incident. Any consequences for the programme, as indicated by the findings, will be clarified within a fortnight.
This was the 180th Vulcain engine test. Since the programme started, these tests have clocked up a cumulative burntime of 44730 seconds, using 13 engines. One such engine, the M8, which conforms to the flight definition, has undergone 10000 seconds of testing, which is over 15 times the nominal flight burntime.
The Ariane-5 development programme is directed by the European Space Agency, with CNES as prime contractor; the Vulcain engine is being developed at SEP, in conjunction with a number of European firms.