The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is proposing to construct and operate a new test stand at John C. Stennis Space Center (SSC) for testing J-2X engines under vacuum conditions simulating high altitude operation. NASA's Constellation Program would require these tests to develop and certify the J-2X engines.
NASA considered and evaluated the suitability of existing test stand structures to accomplish these tests -- the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) J-4 facility in Tullahoma, Tennessee and the NASA Plum Brook Station (PBS) B-2 facility in Sandusky, Ohio. The costs to rebuild either J-4 or B-2 to support J-2X Engine testing is comparable to the cost of building A-3. However, neither J-4 nor B-2 are considered as viable long-term test facilities and would only be used for 1 to 2 years during engine design, development, testing & evaluation. By contrast, A-3 would be used for flight acceptance testing over the life of the Program. A-3 can also be operated as a sea-level test facility whereas J-4 and B-2 cannot. In addition, A-3 will be co-located with the J 2X assembly facility and the A-1 and A-2 sea-level test facilities allowing significant leveraging of infrastructure and human resources. A-3 will also benefit from the test site policies and procedures that are already existing and active at SSC. Finally, B-2 has unacceptable technical risks associated with meeting J-2X test requirements and the schedule for activating B-2 does not meet the required first test start date.
The decision to locate the J-2X engine testing and certification work at SSC is heavily influenced by the existence of the SSC Buffer Zone, SSC expertise in rocket engine testing and the ability to use existing human resources and infrastructure for test operations and delivery of propellants, deluge water, inert gases, and electrical power to the new test stand.