A Chilled Shuttle Booster Is Fired in Final Test of Redesign Program
A full-scale shuttle booster, chilled to 40 degrees in a giant refrigerator for the last month, was fired Friday in a test to prove that new O-ring joints will stand up to winter launches.
It was the sixth and final such test required in a $600-million booster redesign program implemented in the wake of the 1986 Challenger explosion to recertify the big rockets as safe for flight in all seasons.
“Well, the nation has a new President today and a new success in the space program,” said Royce Mitchell, manager of the booster project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “We’re extremely pleased with the condition of what we can see of the hardware and what we can see of the quick-look data.
“The bottom line is, we don’t see any indication of any anomaly. We do see several indications of a very successful test,” he said.
Called QM-8, the 126-foot rocket, loaded with 1.1 million pounds of solid propellant, roared to life with a gush of incandescent flame, spitting out a billowing cloud of exhaust that rose thousands of feet above the Utah desert.
During the booster’s two-minute “burn,” hydraulic arms pushed and pulled on the rocket’s casing to mimic the structural forces experienced by the shuttle vehicle during liftoff and throughout ascent.