Through an arrangement
with an industry partner, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala., is the new home for a space shuttle booster
separation motor test stand.
A static - or stationary - test stand was relocated to Marshall
from San Jose, Calif., where Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a
United Technologies Company of Canoga Park, Calif., previously
manufactured and tested shuttle motors.
The test stand will serve as an alternative platform for motor
The new supplier of
booster separation motors, ATK Thiokol of Promontory, Utah, will
begin qualification testing of shuttle booster separation motors to
verify flight readiness. Testing at ATK Thiokol is expected to
begin later this year.
The test stand also will be available for future testing of
NASA's next generation spacecraft, the crew exploration vehicle,
which builds on shuttle technology.
"The first two tests are scheduled for February at the Marshall
Center's East Test Stand 19," said Jay Nichols, an engineer in
Marshall's Solid Rocket Booster Project Office.
"The initial test will verify proper test stand installation and
data-collection capability." One motor will be fired at existing
air temperature, and the second will be thermally conditioned at
120 degrees Fahrenheit. Each test firing will last 1.2 seconds -
the same length of time it takes for booster separation during
actual shuttle launches. Test motors were pulled from NASA
inventory at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Results are expected to demonstrate the booster separation motor
test facility's capability by providing motor case pressure data
and thrust measurement data. The motor performance data will be
evaluated by comparing it to results from previous static
Booster separation motors weigh 177 pounds when loaded with
Each is approximately 31 inches long and 12.8 inches in diameter.
About two minutes into a space shuttle flight, 16 of these small,
but powerful, motors are fired simultaneously for 1.2 seconds. This
provides the precise thrust required to safely separate the spent
boosters from the space shuttle's external tank and orbiter.
Eight booster separation motors are attached to each of the
shuttle's two reusable solid rocket boosters, four on the forward
skirt and four on the aft skirt. The booster separation motors in
each cluster are ignited while traveling through the atmosphere at
more than 3,000 mph and an altitude of approximately 24 nautical