Having completed a successful initial series of J-2X power pack tests, engineers at Stennis Space Center now are turning their attention to preparing the A-1 Test Stand for the next testing round.
On May 8, engineers successfully completed the first series of tests in the development of the J-2X engine that will power the upper stages of the Ares I and Ares V rockets, key components of NASA's Constellation Program. Ares I will launch the Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts to the International Space Station and then to the moon by 2020. The Ares V will carry cargo and components into orbit for trips to the moon and later to Mars.
The recently-completed series of tests on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis was designed to gather data from the heritage J-2 engine components as they operated at the higher power levels that the new J-2X will require. The new J-2X engine is based on the heritage J-2 engine that powered the upper stages of the Saturn I and Saturn V rockets four decades ago. The tests focused on the engine's power pack, comprised of heritage J-2 liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen turbopumps and gas generator. On a complete engine, these components pump propellants into the engine's main combustion chamber to produce thrust. During the test series, which began in December 2007, more than 1,300 seconds of operation were accumulated on the test hardware.
Information from those tests will be used by NASA and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne engineers to refine the design of the new J-2X engine components. The new J-2X power pack will be returned to Stennis for another round of tests, expected to begin in early 2010.
However, prior to that time, there is considerable work to be done to prepare the A-1 Test Stand for the next series. Those preparations began with removal of the J-2 power pack on May 29.
Once removed, the power pack was transported to the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne facility at Stennis. There, it was prepared for shipment to California for full disassembly and inspection. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne engineers there will look at the turbopumps, gas generator, inlet ducts and gas generator valves.
Even as that work is progressing, engineers at Stennis will be working to install as new thrust measurement system and new run line and discharge piping on the A-1 Test Stand, said Gary Benton, the J-2X project manager at Stennis. Engineers also will be completing upgrades on the liquid hydrogen flare stacks, vent piping and transfer line piping.
General maintenance work will be performed as well, such as painting, replacing corroded water piping and upgrading electrical components of the control and data systems.
"The purpose of these upgrades is to minimize the likelihood of having facility problems that impact an engine test schedule," Benton explained. "Having a fully-functional facility maximizes the number of test opportunities available for the engine. Upgrades on the data and control systems also ensure we provide the best quality data for the engine."
The work on the test stand will continue throughout this year and much of 2009. Currently, plans are to re-activate the test stand systems and begin facility checkouts in the latter half of next year. Final activation preparations are set for late 2009 and early 2010.
The current schedule calls for the new J-2X power pack to be installed by March 2010. Engineers then will begin a critical 17-test series to verify the new power pack, which consists of the new J-2X engine turbo-pumps, gas generator, and ignition system.
Much of the current test stand work will play a vital role in the next test series, Benton explained.
"We want to ensure that we have the test stand ready when the engines are ready to be tested,". " he noted. "The data we provide must be correct so that NASA can verify the engine will perform as required during flight."
For information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/
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