Press Release

Engineers Test the First Engine for NASA’s Return to Flight Mission

By SpaceRef Editor
July 19, 2004
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Engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC) in
Mississippi have successfully tested one of the engines that
will carry the next Space Shuttle into orbit.

The test today was the first on a complete Space Shuttle Main
Engine (SSME) that will be used on the Return to Flight
mission. The engine will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space
Center for installation on the Space Shuttle Discovery. The
Return to Flight mission, designated STS-114, will launch no
earlier than next March and will go to the International
Space Station.

The test began at about 4:59 p.m. EDT. It ran for 520
seconds, the length of time it takes a Space Shuttle to reach
orbit. Initial indications are all test objectives were
successfully met.

“It’s good to see hardware processing for Discovery moving
forward at Stennis and other NASA centers,” said Michael
Kostelnik, deputy associate administrator for International
Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs. “Clearly, we’re
making real progress in safely returning the Shuttle to
flight and enabling the Vision for Space Exploration.”

“This Return to Flight test is a testimony to the hard work
of the NASA and contractor team that developed and continues
to improve the SSME’s capability to take humans to low Earth
orbit safely,” said Miguel Rodriguez, director of the
Propulsion Test Directorate at SSC. “It is a huge source of
pride to the NASA and Boeing team to be part of this great

Developed in the 1970s, the Space Shuttle Main Engine is the
world’s most sophisticated reusable rocket engine. A Space
Shuttle has three main engines. Each is 14 feet long, weighs
about 7,000 pounds and is seven-and-a-half feet in diameter
at the end of its nozzle. It generates almost 400,000 pounds
of thrust.

Engineers conduct rigorous testing to verify an engine is
ready to fly. The most modern versions of the SSME include a
new high-pressure fuel turbopump that was first used in July

“The Space Shuttle Main Engine that flies today has gone
through major upgrades and is safer, stronger and more
reliable than the one that flew on the first Shuttle flight
in 1981,” said Michael Rudolphi, Space Shuttle Propulsion

The Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power division of The Boeing
Co. of Canoga Park, Calif., manufactures the Space Shuttle
Main Engines. Pratt and Whitney, a United Technologies
Company of West Palm Beach, Fla., builds the high-pressure
turbopumps. The Space Shuttle Main Engine project is managed
by the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at NASA’s Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville Ala. SSC conducts engine

For more information about NASA’s Return to Flight efforts,

SpaceRef staff editor.