Text Size

NASA's Marshall Center Readies Historic, Apollo-Era Test Stand for Testing of Ares I -- America's New Rocket
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Engineers have begun preparations to renovate the historic, 360-foot-high Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The test stand, used in the 1960s to test the Apollo-era Saturn V rocket and later the integrated space shuttle system, soon will be used for the integrated vehicle ground vibration test of the nation's new Ares I rocket and Orion crew capsule. NASA's Constellation Program is building this new fleet of spacecraft to return humans to the moon by 2020. The Ares I crew launch vehicle is an in-line, two-stage rocket being designed to carry the Orion capsule and launch future explorers into space. As part of the effort to refurbish the test stand, its massive, 144-foot-high, 71-ton door was opened March 31 – ushering in a new century in NASA's rich history of testing rockets for flight.

Renovations of the test stand will include safety improvements, refurbishment of the 200-ton derrick crane on the roof and installation of a new electrical power system. These repairs will bring the facility back to its original capability, ready to begin testing the Ares I rocket in July 2011. The test program should take approximately one year.

The Dynamic Test Stand was one of the tallest structures in Alabama when it was built in 1964, and only in recent years did it lose this distinction. It was used in 1966 and 1967 for ground vibration testing of the Saturn V launch vehicle and the Apollo spacecraft. In 1972 and 1973, it was used for tests involving Skylab -- the earliest U.S. laboratory flown in Earth orbit.

Beginning in 1978, the space shuttle Enterprise was hoisted into Marshall's Dynamic Test Stand for vertical ground vibration testing in a launch configuration. The tests marked the first time all the shuttle components -- the orbiter, external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters -- were attached.

In October 1985, the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service designated the Dynamic Test Stand as a National Historic Landmark for its contributions to the success of early human spaceflight.
Kimberly Newton
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.