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Altitude Testing of Large Liquid Propellant EnginesThe National Aeronautics and Space Administration entered a new age on January 14, 2004 with President Bush s announcement of the creation the Vision for Space Exploration that will take mankind back to the Moon and on beyond to Mars. In January, 2006, after two years of hard, dedicated labor, engineers within NASA and its contractor workforce decided that the J2X rocket, based on the heritage of the Apollo J2 engine, would be the new engine for the NASA Constellation Ares upper stage vehicle. This engine and vehicle combination would provide assured access to the International Space Station to replace that role played by the Space Shuttle and additionally, would serve as the Earth Departure Stage, to push the Crew Excursion Vehicle out of Earth Orbit and head it on a path for rendezvous with the Moon. Test as you fly, fly as you test was chosen to be the guiding philosophy and a pre-requisite for the engine design, development, test and evaluation program. An exhaustive survey of national test facility assets proved the required capability to test the J2X engine at high altitude for long durations did not exist so therefore, a high altitude/near space environment testing capability would have to be developed. After several agency concepts the A3 High Altitude Testing Facility proposal was selected by the J2X engine program on March 2, 2007 and later confirmed by a broad panel of NASA senior leadership in May 2007. This facility is to be built at NASA s John C. Stennis Space Center located near Gulfport, Mississippi. 30 plus years of Space Shuttle Main Engine development and flight certification testing makes Stennis uniquely suited to support the Vision For Space Exploration Return to the Moon. Propellant handling infrastructure, engine assembly facilities, a trained and dedicated workforce and a broad and varied technical support base will all ensure that the A3 facility will be built on time to support the schedule needs of the J2X engine and the ultimate flight of the first Ares I vehicle. The A3 facility will be able to simulate pre-ignition altitude from sea-level to 100,000 feet and maintain it up to 650 seconds. Additionally the facility will be able to accommodate initial ignition, shutdown and then restart test profiles. A3 will produce up to 5000 lbm/sec of superheated steam utilizing a Chemical Steam generation system. Two separate inline steam ejectors will be used to produce a test cell vacuum to simulate the 100,000 ft required altitude. Operational capability will ensure that the facility can start up and shutdown without producing adverse pressure gradients across the J2X nozzle. The facility will have a modern thrust measurement system for accurate determination of engine performance. The latest advances in data acquisition and control will be incorporated to measure performance parameters during hotfire testing. Provisions are being made in the initial design of the new altitude facility to allow for testing of other, larger engines and potential upper stage launch vehicles that might require vacuum start testing of the engines. The new facility at Stennis Space Center will be complete and ready for hotfire operations in late 2010.
Document ID
Document Type
Maynard, Bryon T.
(NASA Stennis Space Center Stennis Space Center, MS, United States)
Raines, Nickey G.
(NASA Stennis Space Center Stennis Space Center, MS, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2010
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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