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Test Firing at Marshall Center Will Be Heard in Huntsville Thursday, Feb. 16
June Malone
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

News Release: 06-024

It won't be as loud as a space shuttle launch, but area residents can expect a loud noise around 2:30 p.m. CST Thursday, Feb. 16, when a scaled-down solid rocket test motor is fired at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The static, or stationary, firing of the test motor will be audible for about 19 seconds, and will sound similar to a low-flying aircraft.

Firing the 252-inch test motor will help engineers evaluate the performance of insulation material in the shuttle solid rocket motor. The test motor -- about 2 feet in diameter -- will be fired in a horizontal position. The propellant chamber temperature will reach the same temperature as a motor during a shuttle launch -- 5,630 degrees Fahrenheit -- but insulation materials keep the motor casing cool.

Testing subscale versions of the shuttle's solid rocket motor is a quick, low-cost way to determine the performance of new materials and instrumentation. The test is part of an ongoing effort to verify components, materials and manufacturing processes required by the Space Shuttle Program and the Marshall Center's Reusable Solid Rocket Motor Project Office.

The shuttle's reusable solid rocket motor is the largest solid rocket motor ever flown and the first designed for reuse. Each shuttle launch requires the boost of two reusable solid rocket motors to lift the 4.5-million-pound shuttle vehicle. During space shuttle flights, solid rocket motors provide 80 percent of the thrust during the first two minutes of flight. Each motor generates an average thrust of 2.6 million pounds.