The A-3 Test Stand being built to test the next generation of rocket engines at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center will mark several construction milestones in 2010.
"Some deadlines related to the stand are tentative as the future of America's space exploration program is decided," A-3 Project Manager Lonnie Dutreix said. "However, we remain on schedule with the main construction work."
The A-3 Test Stand will provide simulated high-altitude testing of the J-2X rocket engine in development. The J-2X is the next generation of rocket engines that will carry humans beyond low-Earth orbit once more as part of NASA's Constellation Program.
In 2010, construction work on the new stand will proceed on several fronts as workers:
- Begin installing the stand's test cell and diffuser.
- Install the liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen tanks atop the test stand.
- Receive and install the remaining five chemical steam generator water tanks.
- Start installing the gaseous nitrogen bottles for use with the chemical steam generator.
- Install a 66-inch water valve and piping between the delivery system connection and the existing water system.
- Construct the lower Signal Conditioning Building (SCB).
- Construct the test stand's shop building.
With the structural steel framework completed, installation of the test cell and diffuser is the next major task to complete on the test stand. The test cell and diffuser will enable operators to simulate altitudes of up to 100,000 feet, using a series of chemical steam generators to create a vacuum.
The test cell and diffuser is being manufactured and installed by American Tank and Vessel Inc. at its facility in nearby Lucedale.
Other LOX, isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and water tanks are located on the ground and used by the chemical steam generators. Four water, three LOX and two IPA tanks have been delivered and installed at the test stand. In 2010, the remaining five water tanks will be delivered and installed.
Gaseous nitrogen bottles to be used by the chemical steam generators also will begin installation during 2010.The 32 bottles will provide the pressurization gas needed by the generators.
On another front, work on piping to connect the existing water system to the A-3 Test Stand is under way and will be completed in 2010. During test operations, the A-3 Test Stand will need about 300,000 gallons of water per minute.
Construction of the test stand's lower SCB will proceed in 2010. Another SCB will be located at the top of the stand. Together, these will contain all the data acquisition and control capabilities needed by stand operators.
Finally, 2010 will see construction of the shop building adjacent to the stand.
As 2010 opens, the A-3 Test Stand current schedule calls for construction and activation to be completed in late 2011. Once operational, the A-3 stand will enable operators to conduct full-duration tests (the amount of time engines have to fire during actual flights) on full-scale engines and to gimbal the engines (rotate them in the same way they must move during flight to ensure proper trajectory).
No other stand combines all those capabilities, Dutreix said. "This will be a unique test structure – and one pretty important to the space program," he explained. "If we're going beyond low-Earth orbit, we're going to need upper stage engines. Stennis is where those engines will be tested."
For more information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis.
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