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March 4, 2011

Rebecca Strecker, NASA News Chief
NASA Public Affairs Office
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
(228) 688-3249

Team Continues Preparations to Test Key A-3 Test Stand Component

The E-2 Test Stand team at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center is moving ahead in preparations for testing a vital component for a next-generation rocket engine test stand under construction onsite.

Testing on the three-module chemical steam generator (CSG), is designed to verify and validate the unit's fabrication, confirming it will perform as needed. The tests also will provide critical data about operating the unit in an efficient manner.

The new A-3 Test Stand will use nine three-module CSG units to generate superheated steam needed to create a vacuum. The vacuum will allow operators to test next-generation rocket engines at simulated high altitudes up to 100,000 feet. Testing at such simulated altitudes is critical for next-generation engines necessary to carry humans into deep space.

"These chemical steam generators are essential in the vacuum capability of the A-3 stand," said Barry Robinson, project manager for the CSG testing project at the E-2 facility. "Our testing is intended to make sure they perform as designed."

Considerable CSG work already has been done at the E Test Complex, a versatile, three-stand complex used for a variety of research and test projects involving ultra high-pressure gases and cryogenic fluids. Teams have performed tests on "scale models" to identify potential problems and ways to head them off. They also have tested a single CSG module built onsite to make sure the design was correct for the 27 individual modules the A-3 stand needs.

Once the design was verified, Eden Cryogenics in Ohio was awarded the contract for fabricating the 9 units. Several have been delivered to Stennis. Now, a full unit will be tested to verify the design has been followed and will perform as intended.

The E-2 test team has been preparing for the test series for months. It recently completed its activation test readiness review and now is moving forward with a series of flow tests to make sure the stand is ready for full CSG testing. Various flow tests will be conducted in March and April in preparation for a final test readiness review in early May.

Testing is expected to begin soon afterward and be completed by the end of June.

The goal is to identify – and address – all needs prior to installing CSG components at the A-3 Test Stand.

"We already know we can operate a single module to superheat steam and draw a vacuum," Robinson said. "Controlling three and eventually 27 is another thing. We have to prove they will do what they were designed to do."

In addition to answering that question, the upcoming tests will provide valuable information in such areas as the propellant consumption rate of the unit, the necessary start sequencing and how to operate the unit most efficiently.

"We're going to find out a lot of important things in this process," Robinson said. "This is a big deal. This design for the A-3 Test Stand (using 9 CSG units to create a vacuum) has never been done at this magnitude. It's the first application of its kind. There's a lot of hard work involved."

For more information about Stennis, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis.

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