NASA's Stennis Space Center broke ground Thursday for a new rocket engine test stand that will provide altitude testing for the J-2X engine. The engine will power the upper stages of NASA's Ares I and Ares V rockets.
NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale was joined by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor for the landmark occasion. Also participating were NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Scott Horowitz and Stennis Center Director Richard Gilbrech, recently named to succeed Horowitz, who plans to leave NASA in October. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne President Jim Maser took part as well.
"Groundbreakings are about new beginnings," said Dale. "The first stand was erected at Stennis to test the Saturn V rocket of the Apollo program. Testing of the space shuttle engines began here in the mid 1970s. And today, we're breaking ground for a new test stand, for the new spacecraft of a new era of exploration."
The Ares I and Ares V rockets are being developed as part of NASA's Constellation Program. Constellation spacecraft will be used to send astronauts to the International Space Station, return humans to the moon, and eventually journey to Mars.
"This is our generation's turn, our time to go to the moon," said Gilbrech. "One of the key steps is building the A-3 test stand. The J-2X engine has a unique set of test requirements. The best way to meet them is with the A-3."
The A-3 stand is the first large test stand to be built at Stennis since it opened in the 1960s. The new test stand will be a 300-foot-tall, open steel frame structure located south of the existing A-1 test stand. Its 19-acre site in Stennis' A Complex will include a test control center, propellant barge docks and access roadways. The test stand will allow engineers to simulate conditions at different altitudes by generating steam to reduce pressure in the test cell. Testing on the A-3 stand is scheduled to begin in late 2010.
In November 2006, Stennis' existing A-1 stand was handed over to the Constellation Program for testing the J-2X engine. Tests on J-2X components are set to begin later in 2007.
"The engines will be assembled here at Stennis, then subjected to rigorous, expert testing," Dale said. "After that, those engines and the rockets they will power will travel to Cape Canaveral. Then the finished spacecraft will lift off, headed for a new destination and a new era of exploration."
A graphic of the future A-3 test stand, along with all of the latest information about NASA's Constellation Program, is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/constellation
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