Test Engine Failure Could Delay Space Shuttle Launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ A fire that broke out in a space shuttle engine during a test-firing could delay the launch of Columbia this summer, NASA said today.
″Engineers have to inspect the engine and look at the data before they can make a decision about Columbia’s launch,″ said Dave Drachlis, a space agency spokesman at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The failure happened Friday on a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., during firing of a development engine that has been ignited 23 times to test new parts for future shuttle flights.
Columbia’s engines already are in place.
Jerry Smelser, head of the engine program at the Space Flight Center, said NASA needs to determine if the problem involves parts in Columbia’s engines.
Drachlis said the test engine was operating normally until about 21 minutes into a planned firing of 22 minutes 17 seconds, when there was a sudden shutdown and a fire broke out inside. He said there was significant damage to several parts.
″The engine did not blow up; it’s still fundamentally intact,″ he said.
The engine was flown today to the plant of its manufacturer, the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International in Canoga Park, Calif. Drachlis said engineers hoped to be able to begin taking the engine apart on Wednesady.
Meanwhile, technicians here continued preparing Columbia for a classified Pentagon mission in late July or early August.