Press Release

NASA engineers test final engine for Return to Flight Space Shuttle mission

By SpaceRef Editor
August 20, 2004
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Engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC) in
Mississippi have successfully tested what’s expected to be
the last of three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) that
will carry the next Space Shuttle into orbit.

The engine tested Thursday will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy
Space Center, Fla., for installation on Space Shuttle
Discovery for its Return to Flight mission, designated STS-
114. NASA plans to launch Discovery to the International
Space Station no earlier than March 2005.

The test began at about 9:10 p.m. EDT August 19. 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.

“Piece by piece, milestone by milestone, we’re getting closer
to flying the Shuttle again,” said Michael Kostelnik, deputy
associate administrator for International Space Station and
Space Shuttle Programs. “Today’s engine test is another
important step to make sure we give the STS-114 crew a safe
ride to and from the Space Station.”

“Our NASA and contractor team has continued to work hard over
the past year and a half to make sure the Shuttle’s main
engine — this incredible piece of machinery — maintains its
safety record,” said Miguel Rodriguez, director of the
Propulsion Test Directorate at SSC. “All the effort will pay
off when we see Discovery lift off next year.”

Engineers conduct rigorous testing to verify that an engine
is ready to fly. Developed in the 1970s, the Space Shuttle
Main Engine is the most advanced liquid-fueled rocket engine
ever built and the first reusable one.

Temperatures inside the engines reach 6,000 degrees
Fahrenheit — hot enough to melt iron — and the pressure
mounts to as high as 6,000 pounds per square inch. During the
eight-and-a-half minutes the Shuttle’s three Main Engines
burn, they produce energy equivalent to 23 Hoover Dams —
about 37 million horsepower. Each engine 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.

“The successful completion of this test is another milestone
in our efforts to return the Space Shuttle safely to flight,”
said Gene Goldman, manager of the Space Shuttle Main Engine
Project Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala. “There has been a tremendous effort by the
team at Stennis, both civil servant and contractor, to ready
the engines for flight. Their diligent attention to detail is
critical to the safe and reliable performance of the

The Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power division of The Boeing
Co. of Canoga Park, Calif., manufactures the Shuttle’s Main
Engines. Pratt and Whitney, a United Technologies Company of
West Palm Beach, Fla., builds the high-pressure turbopumps.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office administers
the main engine program. SSC conducts engine tests.

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

SpaceRef staff editor.