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April 21, 2006

NASA Public Affairs Office
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
(228) 688-3341


NASA Stennis Space Center marked the 40th anniversary of the first rocket engine test at the center with a space shuttle main engine test-firing on April 21, 2006. The firing also marked the 25th anniversary of NASA's STS-1, the first space shuttle mission.

Safety concerns related to a dangerous weather system moving through the area caused the center to cancel the planned public viewing of the test. More than 3,000 people had been anticipated to attend the event.

Once the severe weather system passed the area, the countdown was resumed. The engine test took place at 4:29 p.m. and ran for 380 seconds. Initial indications are the test was a success, and the engine performed without any major anomalies.

On April 23, 1966, Stennis Space Center, then known as the Mississippi Test Facility, conducted its first rocket engine static test-firing on the A-2 Test Stand. That test was on an S-II-T, a cluster of five J-2 engines, the second stage of the Saturn V moon rocket. The Saturn V vehicles safely carried astronauts to the lunar surface as part of the historic Apollo program, which was conducted from 1963 to 1972.

On July 20, 1969, just three years after that first test, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface, safely transported 238,857 miles by a space vehicle whose boosters were tested and proven flight-worthy in Hancock County, Miss.

Stennis Space Center's primary mission of testing the first and second stages of the Saturn V moon rocket for the Apollo program continued until the early 1970s. Its test stands were then modified to test space shuttle main engines. Since then, all space shuttle main engines have been tested and proven flight-worthy at Stennis Space Center, America's largest rocket engine test complex.

"Stennis is the last place in the country where we can test large engines or whole rocket stages," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin during a recent visit to the center.

With its state-of-the-art facilities, Stennis Space Center continues to test components for future-generation spacecraft, helping America fulfill its space exploration vision: to return humans to the moon before the end of the next decade, paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond.

"We are excited to be able to convert our test stands for the future," said Dr. Richard Gilbrech, Stennis Space Center director. "The nation's Vision for Space Exploration is to return to the moon by 2020, and Stennis Space Center will be playing a prime role testing those large rocket engine stages."

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, Calif., manufactures the space shuttle main engine and its high-pressure turbo pumps. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project for NASA's Space Shuttle Program.

Related Multimedia:
+ http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/news/newsreleases/2006/STS-06-0065-cptn.html


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