Playing Rockets in the House

Technicians at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee successfully fired a second-stage Minuteman III rocket motor that came from the motor’s final production batch. “It’s the last of the production runs, so it’s a significant test,” said Denny Elston, a contractor who’s a testing engineer at AEDC. “The motor met all specification requirements, and that’s not unusual,” he said of last month’s testing in the center’s Large Rocket Motor Test Facility. Manufacturer ATK Launch Systems switched to a very low-rate “warm” production line for these engines two years ago. AEDC’s testing is meant to help ensure that the nation maintains “the manufacturing and engineering infrastructure necessary” to produce Minuteman’s solid-fuel boosters, explained Elston. The Minuteman motors are designed for a shelf life of 30 years. The last stage-three engine from warm-line production is scheduled to undergo testing this month. (Arnold report by Shawn Jacobs)