For 15 space shuttle main engines or SSMEs – the move is on. These RS-25D The engines will be moved at the rate of one-per-week from Kennedy Space Center’s Engine Shop in Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA plans to repurpose these engines for use on the new Space Launch System (SLS). For now, they are being transferred to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi where they will be placed in storage.
SLS is NASA’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle that the space agency is planning to use to launch the new Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. It is this combination of rocket and spacecraft that NASA will employ to launch astronauts beyond low-Earth-orbit – for the first time in four decades. SLS is being developed out of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. This includes engine testing.
“The relocation of RS-25D engine assets represents a significant cost savings to the SLS Program by consolidating SLS engine assembly and test operations at a single facility,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
The engines at KSC will embark on their 700-mile journey using methods that were employed to move engines between Kennedy and Stennis during the shuttle era. They will be relocated one at time by truck.
“This enables the sharing of personnel, resources and practices across all engine projects, allows flexibility and responsiveness to the SLS program, and it is more affordable,” said Johnny Heflin, RS-25D core stage engine lead in the SLS Liquid Engines Office at Marshall. “It also frees up the space, allowing Kennedy to move forward relative to commercial customers.”
Built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the RS-25D engine powered NASA’s Space Shuttle Program for thirty years. When the space shuttles go on display in museums across the nation, they will be sporting what are known as Replica Shuttle Main Engines or RSMEs. These mockups are partially constructed using parts from SSMEs. For many at KSC, seeing the engines packed up and shipped out is a bittersweet site. For some, however, this is not the case.
“I knew this day was coming and in a few months the engine shop will close,” said Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s KSC Site Director Dan Hausam. “I’m ready to move on.”