NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center marked another milestone in construction of its new rocket engine test stand with completion of a pair of transfer docks July 2.
The docks allow fuel barges to deliver propellants (or fuels) to the A-3 Test Stand via Stennis' seven-and-one-half-mile canal system, which connects the site to the Pearl River. From the docks, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen will be loaded into run tanks and used to conduct engine tests. The docks also are outfitted to allow for direct liquid transfer during a test.
Workers conducted a July 9 test of the pin anchoring systems used to secure barges at the docks while liquid fuels are transferred. The anchoring systems hold barges in place while allowing them to float up and down as needed.
"Until you actually put a barge into position, you cannot be sure that everything will fit," said Andrew "Bo" Clarke, the contracting officer's technical representative for the A-3 project. "It was a great relief to see the barges fit perfectly at each of the stations. You could see the pride in the (construction) superintendent's face as the barges slid into place. It was a good day."
IKBI Inc., of Choctaw, Miss., was contractor for the dock construction, an $8.3 million project that took six months to complete. The docks basically are copies of those used at the other test stands onsite.
Completion of the docks marked another sign of progress in construction of the A-3 Test Stand. On April 9, workers concluded structural steel work at the site. With work on basic stand facilities wrapping up, the focus turns to outfitting the stand, Clarke said.
"Contracts for the stand's test cell and diffuser and for general construction work are in place, and the contractors are gearing up," he reported. "They will install the working parts to the test structure and make it ready to activate."
The A-3 stand is the first large test structure to be built at Stennis since the 1960s. It will be used to provide high-altitude testing of the J-2X engine, which is being built to help carry humans back to the moon as part of NASA's Constellation Program.
The 300-foot-tall stand differs from its largely concrete counterparts in that it features a frame of structural steel and will use chemical steam generators to help simulate altitudes of up to 100,000 feet. That is a critical aspect because the Constellation Program calls for humans to go beyond low-Earth orbit, which means the J-2X must be able to fire in space.
Ground was broken for the new test stand in August 2007. Activation testing on the stand is set to begin in early 2011.
For information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/.
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