For release: 08/01/02
Release #: 02-192
Shuttle motor test, crew visit is success
A scaled-down version of the Space Shuttle's Reusable Solid Rocket Motor was successfully fired for 21 seconds on Aug. 1 at one of the Marshall Center test stands. More than 100 spectators, including crew members of the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-111 mission, which flew in June, watched as Marshall Center's Space Transportation Directorate tested a new material that may be used on the Solid Rocket Motor's nozzle.
Photo: Engineers test a new material for the nozzle of the Space Shuttle's Reusable Solid Rocket Motor at Marshall. (NASA/MSFC)
On hand to view the 21-second test will be crewmembers of the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-111 mission, which flew in June. During their visit to the Marshall Center, the crew - which includes Commander Kenneth D. Cockrell; Pilot Paul S. Lockhart; and Mission Specialist Franklin R. Chang-Diaz -- also will present "Silver Snoopy" awards to Marshall employees who contributed to the success of the Space Shuttle or International Space Station programs.
Engineers from the Marshall Center Space Transportation Directorate, who will conduct the test, will use a 24-inch solid rocket motor to ensure a replacement material will meet the criteria set by the Shuttle's Solid Motor Project Office. The current material is a rayon-based carbon-cloth phenolic, resistant to heat, used as insulating material for the motor's nozzle. The new material, Lycocel, is expected to perform better under the high temperatures experienced during launch.
Use of the scaled-down version of the Shuttle's Solid Rocket Motor allows for a versatile, quick-turnaround, low-cost way to determine the performance of new materials.
The test, which replicates launch conditions, is part of Shuttle's ongoing verification of components, materials and manufacturing processes required by the Marshall Center, which oversees the Reusable Solid Rocket Motor project. ATK Thiokol Propulsion Division in Promontory, Utah, manufactures the Shuttle's Solid Rocket Motor.
A baseline test to provide information on how the material currently being used performs was executed in June by Space Transportation Directorate engineers at Marshall.
Lycocel, a brand name for Tencel, is a cousin to rayon and is an exceptionally strong fiber made of wood pulp produced by a special "solvent-spinning" process using a non-toxic solvent. It will also be impregnated with a phenolic resin.
The motor test - used to qualify any proposed upgrades or changes to the motor -- is a stepping stone to a Flight Support Motor test performed at Thiokol Propulsion Corporation's Test Services facility in Promontory. The motor's 21-second test duration is the approximately one-sixth the length of time that the motors perform during Shuttle flights.
"Testing is a key element in our program, providing valuable information on design, process and material changes," said Mike Rudolphi, manager of the Reusable Solid Rocket Motor Project Office.
Following the test, the data will be analyzed and the results for each objective will be used to better understand the motor's performance. The next step for qualification of the new material will be testing on a 48-inch solid rocket motor.
At 126 feet (38.4 meters) long and 12 feet (3.6 meters) in diameter, the Shuttle's Reusable Solid Rocket Motor is the largest solid rocket motor ever flown and the first designed for reuse. During its two-minute burn at liftoff, each motor generates an average thrust of 2.6 million pounds (1.2 million kilograms).
The Marshall Center is a key leader for development of space transportation and propulsion systems.
NOTE TO EDITORS / NEWS DIRECTORS: A special area to the view the Space Shuttle's Reusable Solid Rocket Motor test will be provided at the Marshall Center for the news media. Members of the STS-111 crew will be available for news media interviews. To attend the test firing, media representatives must register with Marshall's Media Relations Department by telephoning (256) 544-0034 no later than 10 a.m. CDT Thursday, Aug. 1 and arrive no later than 2:15 p.m. CDT for the test.
The test will be conducted at the East Test Area, Test Stand 500. Media should enter Gate 1, take a left onto Dodd Road and follow the signs to the test site.
Additional information on the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-111 crew and the Marshall Center's role in the mission
During their mission to the International Space Station, the STS-111 crew installed the Mobile Base System, which allows the Station's robotic arm to "inchworm" up and down the Station's trusses and aid in maintenance and assembly tasks.
The Marshall Center's role in the STS-111 mission included:
- Consulting with the Canadian Space Agency to help it prepare the final piece of the Canadian Mobile Servicing System - the Mobile Base System - for flight;
- Designing and manufacturing a payload bay carrier to hold the Service Module Debris Panels that provided additional shielding for the Russian Service Module, Zvezda, where the Space Station crew lives;
- Collaborating with the Italian Space Agency, which built the Multi Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo, that made its third delivery of experiments and supplies to the Space Station -- the fifth flight of the logistics module, which is managed Marshall's Flight Projects Directorate;
- Working with the European Space Agency on a new Space Station science facility - the Microgravity Science Glovebox - allowing safe, hands-on materials science experiments inside the Station's Destiny laboratory;
- Delivering the fifth EXPRESS rack, which support more experiments inside Destiny;
- And monitoring 24experiments, including the new glovebox and the first two Station materials science experiments, at the Payload Operations Center at Marshall.
STS-111 crew are Commander Kenneth D. Cockrell; Pilot Paul S. Lockhart; and Mission Specialists Phillippe Perrin and Franklin R. Chang-Diaz.
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