There is a burst of orange light, apparently a gas or similar, that is sent in no particular pattern behind a Firefly vessel immediately before it launches a great burst of speed. What is responsible for this?

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There's a special feature on the Firefly DVDs (Serenity: The 10th Character) that discusses it. Apparently the justification is that the Firefly class ships used a fusion explosion to propel it and that glow is the explosion causing the ship to gain a burst of speed.

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