Block II Space Shuttle Main Engine Damaged During Test Firing

By Keith Cowing
June 25, 2000
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Space Shuttle Main Engine A recent test of a Space Shuttle Block II Main Engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center was automatically terminated a few seconds after it began due to an engine malfunction. The damage to the engine was rather extensive. According to NASA sources, the engine’s fuel pump and preburner turbine were found in bits and pieces and the turbine blades were loose.

According to NASA’s short press release “about 5 seconds into the planned 200-second test of a new high-pressure fuel turbopump configuration, higher than expected test temperatures caused the Shuttle Main Engine to shut itself down using its own internal safety mechanisms. The engine being tested was not a flight configuration. It is a development unit used to validate the engine’s capability to operate at higher-than-normal temperature levels. The test used a main combustion chamber smaller than those currently flown on the Shuttle, which increases temperatures in the pumps to test for different temperature limits.”

NASA has formed a team to investigate the incident.

Block II SSMEs represent a third redesign and improvement of the Space Shuttle’s propulsion system since it first began flying in 1981. The Block II engine redesign includes a new fuel turbopump. Future improvements will include a new nozzle design and an advanced health and monitoring system

Related Links

° Problem Aborts Space Shuttle Main Engine Firing, Spaceflight Now

° NASA Forms Team To Review Space Shuttle Main Engine Test Incident, NASA PAO

Background Information

° Space Shuttle Upgrades, Space Ref Directory

° Space Shuttle Program Development, NASA KSC

° Upgrading the Space Shuttle, National Research Council

° Main Propulsion System, Space Shuttle News Reference

° Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) Enhancements, NASA MSFC Fact Sheet

° The 21st Century Space Shuttle, NASA

° Shuttle Processing: SSME/Main Propulsion System, NASA KSC

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.