A-1 and A-2 Test Stands

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A-1 and A-2 Test Stands
A-1 and A-2 Test Stands

Center: Stennis Space Center
Location: Hancock County, MS
Year Built: 1966
Historic Eligibility: National Historic Landmark
Important Tests: Saturn V second stage (S-II), Space Shuttle Main Engine

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[top] History

The smaller two of the original three test stands at Stennis Space Center, the A-1 and A-2 stands were built to test and flight-certify the second stage of the Saturn V (called the S-II), the booster system for the Apollo program. Both of these steel and concrete structures are roughly 200 feet tall, and capable of withstanding thrust loads of more than 1 million pounds and temperature of up to 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Construction began in 1963 and was finished in 1966, when, on April 23, the first static test of an S-II engine prototype (called the S-II-T) was performed on the A-2 test stand. These two test stands tested and flight-certified S-II engines until the end of the Apollo program in the early 1970s.

The A Test Complex also includes a Test Control Center, observation bunkers, and various technical and support systems.

It was announced in 1971 that the center would be performing tests on the engines for the new Space Shuttle program (called the SSME). The A-1 and A-2 test stands, originally designed to accommodate the much larger S-II engines, were modified to accept the smaller SSME, and testing officially began on May 19, 1975 when the first such engine was tested on the A-1 stand. The center continued to test engines for the duration of the shuttle program, on the A-1 and A-2 stands as well as the B-1/B-2 stand, and the final scheduled test occurred on July 29, 2009 on the A-2 stand.

As the shuttle program is phased out, the A-1 and A-2 test stands are seeing new use testing the next generation of rocket engines, including the J-2X engine designed to power the Ares I and Ares V rockets (part of the Constellation Program), with the first such test occurring on December 18, 2007. No engine tested at SSC has ever been the cause of a mission failure, and we can predict that the A-1 and A-2 stands will continue to be used for the foreseeable future.

In 1984, all three of the original test stands were designated National Historic Landmarks.

[top] Photos

[top] Documents

1984 Butowsky - Man in Space National Historic Landmark Theme Study

1997 Herring - Way Station to Space: A History of the John C. Stennis Space Center

2007 NASA - Propulsion Testing

2008 An End of An Era (final SSME flight certification)

[top] Films

Final Space Shuttle Main Engine Test

Space Shuttle Main Engine Test on A-1 Stand

X-33 Engine Test on A-1 Stand

[top] Links

Stennis Space Center Engineering and Test Directorate home page

Stennis Image Retrieval System

John C. Stennis Space Center home page

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