March 11, 2006

Old Space-Shuttle Booster Rocket Tested

PROMONTORY, Utah (AP) - A 4 1/2-year-old space-shuttle booster rocket was test-fired by ATK Thiokol to determine the effects of age on the rocket motor components.

"Parts in the motor have been used in other rocket sets, and we were getting close to the maximum age of the boosters," said Nick Whitehead, who supervises motor and stage design for ATK Thiokol. "We brought this set back to test it because it has had extended exposure to the humid environment at the Kennedy Space Center."

Whitehead was optimistic about the test results.

"We won't really know until the reports are all done, but right now everything appears normal," he said.

Whitehead said a preliminary report of the stationary test will be prepared within a day and a full report is expected to be delivered to NASA in 120 days. Report data will be collected from 89 instrumentation channels throughout the rocket.

The tests are important for NASA as it prepares a new shuttle design, said company spokeswoman Melodie DeGuibert.

"Right now, NASA launches are all grounded as they redesign, but we expect to be the propulsion provider for the upcoming crew launch vehicle," DeGuibert said. "They are looking at utilizing our current solid rocket propulsion technology."

Thursday's test was attended by NASA astronaut Richard Linnehan, who has gone into space three times.

The static, or stationary, tests are carried out about twice a year, and have attracted crowds of up to 5,000 people.

This test was performed before a smaller crowd including students from Ogden's Da Vinci Academy and Ben Lomond High School.

The 126-foot-long booster rockets are made from reusable motors, which are refueled and assembled after being shipping by railroad to the launch site.


Information from: Standard-Examiner,