Hazardous / High Energy Testing

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Altitude Testing of Aerojet Advanced Liquid Oxygen/Liquid Methane Rocket Engine
Altitude Testing of Aerojet Advanced Liquid Oxygen/Liquid Methane Rocket Engine
Photo credit: NASA
White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) conducts simulated mission duty cycle testing to develop numerous full-scale propulsion systems. These systems have been developed for the Apollo Service Propulsion and Lunar modules, Shuttle Orbiter, and the International Space Station (ISS). Additionally, we evaluate upgraded or redesigned shuttle orbiter components to extend service life, enhance performance, and improve mission safety. WSTF is formally certified to perform precision cleaning and depot-level refurbishment of flight-critical propulsion systems components.

The scientific investigation of explosion phenomena at WSTF is aimed at improving safety at launch facilities and other areas where hazardous materials are used. Ultra-high-speed instrumentation helps better define safety and structural requirements for new and existing launch facilities by measuring the effects of exploding liquid and solid propellants.

WSTF is a center of technical excellence in the fields of high-pressure oxygen systems/materials and rocket propellant safety. WSTF offers:

  • Functional and performance evaluation tests
  • Hazards/failure analyses of materials, components, and complete systems
  • System design evaluation and recommendations
  • Safety training courses and manuals

The following services are available for governmental and commercial customers:

Testing Materials and Propulsion Systems

  • Ignition, flammability, odor, and offgassing
  • Materials compatibility with routine or hazardous fluids
  • Aerospace fluid systems and components
  • Hyper- and low-velocity testing
  • Solid/liquid rocket systems up to 60,000 lb thrust
  • Nine rocket engine/system test stands, including six vacuum cells
  • Long-duration high-altitude simulation
  • Off-limits and life-cycle testing

Research and Development

  • Burn-resistant alloy
  • Blast phenomena and propellant explosion studies
  • Propellant chemistry and characterization
  • Spacecraft material properties
  • Metals –Polymers –Composites

Technical Consultation

  • Hazards/failure analyses with system design evaluation and recommendations
  • Oxygen, hydrogen, propellant hydrazines, nitrogen tetroxide
  • Cryogenic and hypergolic propellant handling

Technical Publications

  • Oxygen and hydrogen safety
  • Composite overwrap pressure vessel damage detection
  • Training courses and safety manuals for cryogenic and hypergolic propellants

Technical Capabilities

  • Chemical, physical, and metallurgical analyses
  • Nondestructive evaluation techniques
  • State-of-the-art analytical instrumentation, including
    • Fourier transform infrared spectroscope,
    • Scanning electron microscope,
    • Gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, and
    • Microcalorimeter
  • Flight component fabrication, cleaning, and refurbishment
  • Instrumentation calibration to NIST standards

White Sands Space Harbor (WSSH)
White Sands Space Harbor (WSSH)

WSTF operates the two 7-mile long laser-leveled lakebed runways at White Sands Space Harbor as an alternate orbiter landing site and coordinates astronaut training in flying the critical approach and landing phase of Shuttle Missions. The Shuttle Training Aircraft, Grumman Gulfstream corporate jets specially modified to duplicate the controls and flight characteristics of the Shuttle Orbiter, are hangared 75 miles away at the El Paso International Airport.

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Page Last Updated: January 10th, 2014
Page Editor: Raymond Mitchell