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NASA's Marshall Center Gains Booster Separation Motor Testing Capability
June Malone
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

News Release: 06-027

Booster Separation Test Stand Through an arrangement with an industry partner, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is the new home for a space shuttle booster separation motor test stand.

A static -- or stationary -- test stand was relocated to Marshall from San Jose, Calif., where Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a United Technologies Company of Canoga Park, Calif., previously manufactured and tested shuttle motors.

The test stand will serve as an alternative platform for motor tests. The new supplier of booster separation motors, ATK Thiokol of Promontory, Utah, will begin qualification testing of shuttle booster separation motors to verify flight readiness. Testing at ATK Thiokol is expected to begin later this year.

The test stand also will be available for future testing of NASA's next generation spacecraft, the crew exploration vehicle, which builds on shuttle technology.

"The first two tests are scheduled for February at the Marshall Center's East Test Stand 19," said Jay Nichols, an engineer in Marshall's Solid Rocket Booster Project Office. "The initial test will verify proper test stand installation and data-collection capability." One motor will be fired at existing air temperature, and the second will be thermally conditioned at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Each test firing will last 1.2 seconds -- the same length of time it takes for booster separation during actual shuttle launches. Test motors were pulled from NASA inventory at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Results are expected to demonstrate the booster separation motor test facility's capability by providing motor case pressure data and thrust measurement data. The motor performance data will be evaluated by comparing it to results from previous static tests.

Booster separation motors weigh 177 pounds when loaded with propellant. Each is approximately 31 inches long and 12.8 inches in diameter. About two minutes into a space shuttle flight, 16 of these small, but powerful, motors are fired simultaneously for 1.2 seconds. This provides the precise thrust required to safely separate the spent boosters from the space shuttle's external tank and orbiter.

Eight booster separation motors are attached to each of the shuttle's two reusable solid rocket boosters, four on the forward skirt and four on the aft skirt. The booster separation motors in each cluster are ignited while traveling through the atmosphere at more than 3,000 mph and an altitude of approximately 24 nautical miles.

For more information about the Space Shuttle Program, visit:

For more information about the Marshall Space Flight Center, visit:

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