NASA Public Affairs Office
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, NASA's Stennis Space Center has returned to its main line of business, testing space shuttle main engines. Engineers successfully test-fired an engine today for 520 seconds. That's the length of time a shuttle takes to reach orbit.
Stennis Center Director Bill Parsons, assigned as the senior NASA official for Katrina recovery and relief, is leading the effort to work with state and federal agencies stationed at the center and at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to help restore a sense of normalcy as soon as possible. Today's engine test is an indication that Stennis Space Center and the region are working toward recovering from the storm.
"My hat's off to the members of our NASA and contractor teams who rode out the storm, took care of the facilities, took care of each other and helped thousands of people who were in dire need after the storm," Parsons said. "They are the reason we can get back to doing our NASA mission."
The test today met several objectives. The main objective was the continuation of a certification series on the Advanced Health Management System, which monitors the engine's performance and enables it to shut down if unusual vibrations are detected in the engine's turbopump. It's an upgrade to the engine that provides a significant improvement to lower risk for space shuttle main engines.
A number of other engine parts were tested and certified, such as a fast-response temperature sensor. Multiple test objectives are "piggybacked" on each engine firing to be as efficient as possible.
"We are very pleased to be testing again," said Gene Goldman, manager of the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "It's a testament to the dedication and character of the Stennis workforce that they are able to test so soon after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We realize many of them have far greater concerns in their personal lives right now, daily challenges we can barely imagine."
After Hurricane Katrina demolished nearby municipalities in Mississippi and Louisiana, employees formed volunteer teams to help each other and members of the community clean up and repair their homes or for the thousands who lost their homes find a place to live. Approximately 25 percent of Stennis' 4,500 employees lost their homes, and the majority of employees had varying degrees of damage.
Dave Geiger, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's site director at Stennis, said he is one of about 25 percent of PWR employees who lost their homes. "After the first week we focused on getting back into some semblance of operations," he said. "Getting people back in a work routine gives them hope. Each day is better than yesterday, and this test provides hope that tomorrow will be better than today."
Meanwhile, the disaster relief and recovery effort continues. "The best way we can meet the challenge of recovery is to support each other and work as a team," Parsons said. "The sooner we can all get back to what we were doing before the storm, the better off we'll all be."
Stennis has tested and proven flight-worthy every space shuttle main engine since the first test in 1975. It's America's largest rocket engine test complex and a federal and commercial city home to more than 30 other organizations and companies.
- end -