NASA engineers test final engine for Return to Flight Space Shuttle mission

Press Release From: Stennis Space Center
Posted: Friday, August 20, 2004

Engineers at NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi have successfully tested what's expected to be the last of three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) that will carry the next Space Shuttle into orbit.

The engine tested Thursday will be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for installation on Space Shuttle Discovery for its Return to Flight mission, designated STS- 114. NASA plans to launch Discovery to the International Space Station no earlier than March 2005.

The test began at about 9:10 p.m. EDT August 19. It ran for 520 seconds, the length of time it takes a Space Shuttle to reach orbit. Initial indications are all test objectives were successfully met.

"Piece by piece, milestone by milestone, we're getting closer to flying the Shuttle again," said Michael Kostelnik, deputy associate administrator for International Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs. "Today's engine test is another important step to make sure we give the STS-114 crew a safe ride to and from the Space Station."

"Our NASA and contractor team has continued to work hard over the past year and a half to make sure the Shuttle's main engine -- this incredible piece of machinery -- maintains its safety record," said Miguel Rodriguez, director of the Propulsion Test Directorate at SSC. "All the effort will pay off when we see Discovery lift off next year."

Engineers conduct rigorous testing to verify that an engine is ready to fly. Developed in the 1970s, the Space Shuttle Main Engine is the most advanced liquid-fueled rocket engine ever built and the first reusable one.

Temperatures inside the engines reach 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- hot enough to melt iron -- and the pressure mounts to as high as 6,000 pounds per square inch. During the eight-and-a-half minutes the Shuttle's three Main Engines burn, they produce energy equivalent to 23 Hoover Dams -- about 37 million horsepower. Each engine is 14 feet long, weighs about 7,000 pounds and is seven-and-a-half feet in diameter at the end of its nozzle. It generates almost 400,000 pounds of thrust.

"The successful completion of this test is another milestone in our efforts to return the Space Shuttle safely to flight," said Gene Goldman, manager of the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "There has been a tremendous effort by the team at Stennis, both civil servant and contractor, to ready the engines for flight. Their diligent attention to detail is critical to the safe and reliable performance of the engines."

The Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power division of The Boeing Co. of Canoga Park, Calif., manufactures the Shuttle's Main Engines. Pratt and Whitney, a United Technologies Company of West Palm Beach, Fla., builds the high-pressure turbopumps. NASA's Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office administers the main engine program. SSC conducts engine tests.

For more information about NASA's Return to Flight efforts, visit:

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