The primary engine, composing the rear of the ship, rapidly propelled Serenity through space to travel the distances between planets, leaving a signature firefly-like glow in its wake. It operated primarily by unleashing hot plasma, then igniting it for a quick burst of speed. This engine only needed to be fired once unless the crew wishes to change their heading; inertia kept the ship going because there was no significant friction in the void between planets. Serenity was drifting to its next destination when an explosion knocked the engine out of commission, leaving the ship dependent on inertia entirely.
Secondary engines were located on the left and right of Serenity and were used for atmospheric travel and maneuvering. They could swivel in their sockets to change directions making her capable of vertical take-offs and landings (and the Crazy Ivan Maneuver).
There were also a series of small maneuvering rockets for docking with other ships in microgravity.
Behind the scenesEdit
The spaceship physics demonstrated in Firefly line up with real-world physics much better than those demonstrated by the average Sci-Fi vessel.
Space scenes, excepting a musical score, are done in complete silence, marking one of the first television series to avoid this means of presenting effects to the audience. There is no significant medium in the vacuum of space to carry sound, but many Sci-Fi series add sound for dramatic effect even though it cannot be heard. However, radio communication between characters in suits and sound effects from when the camera is in the spaceship can be heard, since proper media are present.