Planned New Stand Will Test Ares Rocket Engines
NASA plans to build a new stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to test the future Ares lifter rocket engines, propulsion units in the Constellation Program to take humans back to the moon and then to Mars, the agency announced.
The space agency plans to award a contract for the Ares lifter later this year. NASA last summer awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] the contract for the Orion crew exploration vehicle that Ares will lift into orbit.
NASA will build a new test stand at Stennis for the J-2X engine. The engine will power upper stages of the Ares I and Ares V rockets.
Stennis already is home to Apollo-era test stands that served the space program through the shuttle era, NASA noted.
The newly proposed structure will be the first large test stand built at the center since the 1960s. Unlike the older structures, the new 300-foot-tall, open-frame design will allow engineers to simulate conditions at different altitudes.
NASA engineers need that capability to test the J-2X ability to function as a second stage engine for the Ares I crew launch vehicle and the Earth Departure Stage engine for the Ares V cargo launch vehicle. To do that, the test stand will generate approximately 4,620 pounds per second of steam and use it to reduce the engine test cell pressure.
NASA will complete the new stand in time to support the first J-2X engine test in December 2010. An existing test stand at Stennis also is being modified to test the J-2X engine at sea level conditions.
Ares I will launch the Orion spacecraft, taking astronauts to the International Space Station no later than 2015, then to the moon by 2020. The Ares V will carry cargo and components into orbit for trips to the moon and later to Mars.
The test stand, along with its control center, propellant barge docks and access roadways, will be built in Stennis A Complex.