HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Space shuttle main engine No. 0525 was lifted from the A-2 Test Stand at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center Thursday. In the background, you could see the new A-3 Test Stand under construction, offering a glimpse of the past and future in the nation's space exploration program.
Space shuttle main engines have powered NASA's Space Shuttle Program for the past 28 years. Stennis Space Center has tested every main engine used on more than 125 shuttle missions.
The shuttle program is set to end in 2010. Stennis conducted the last planned space shuttle main engine test on July 29 and now is deactivating the A-2 Test Stand to a safe "standby" status.
Meanwhile, construction of the A-3 Test Stand continues in order to conduct high-altitude testing of the J-2X engine in development. The J-2X engine is being built to help power the Ares I and Ares V rockets that are the centerpiece of the Constellation Program, which will return humans to the moon and possibly beyond.
The new test stand will allow operators to fire the J-2X at simulated altitudes of up to 100,000 feet. It's a critical requirement since the engine must be able to fire in space in order to enable flights to the moon and back.
Activation on the A-3 Test Stand is scheduled to begin in early 2011. Testing of the J-2X engine is set to begin on the modified A-1 Test Stand at Stennis that spring.