Stennis Celebrates 30 Years Of Engine Tests - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/12/05

Stennis Celebrates 30 Years Of Engine Tests

As engineers completed their final checklist, Pat Mooney remembered the first main engine test countdown at Stennis Space Center.

"There weren't many people 30 years ago that thought it would run out this long," the long time engineer said.

Yet 30 years later, Stennis is still the place to test the engines that launch shuttles into orbit. Just ask its deputy director David Throckmorton.

"This is what we do on a regular basis, and will continue to test main engines as long as the space shuttle program is active," he said.

For 380 seconds, a cloud created by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen rushed out of test stand A-2.

"What I see is a continual demonstration of the reliability of these engines to make sure than when we put them on the space shuttle, and commit them to push astronauts into orbit, that they're going to be as safe as we can make them," the deputy director said.

Throckmorton watched the 6:20 test with two NASA astronauts. Both space travelers were confident that despite early troubles with the just completed Discovery mission, and a NASA decision to temporarily ground future flights, these engines will be put to use very soon.

"This is part of getting ready to go fly," astronaut Jerry Ross said. "This is another engine we're preparing for a future flight. And we just keep working at each edge of the program until we get it all ready to go fly. And then we go do it again."

In 30 years and 2,200 tests just like this, the Stennis mission has never changed. And with so much in space left to explore, Pat Mooney hopes it never does.

Mooney quoted a colleague when he told the media, "Great countries do great things. And this is a great thing for our nation."

Stennis has almost 50 main engine test scheduled next year. However, engineers say fewer test may be necessary, depending on how long the space shuttle program remains grounded.

by Brad Kessie

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