It will be the end of an era, literally, for Northern Utah Thursday when ATK conducts their last static ground test for the Space Shuttle program.
The test firing of the four-segment motor, which has been witnessed in the past by thousands and thousands of residents and school children alike, will take place Thursday, Feb. 25, at 11:55 a.m. There is a staging area south of the test site where residents can view the test firing.
This will mark the closure of the program that ATK and its predesessors, Thiokol, Morton Thiokol, et al, supported with solid rocket motors from the Promontory facility. The program spanned three decades, with news first appearing locally in the Leader in the early 1970s. In November of 1973 Thiokol won the bid to build the motors and the first test was conducted on July 18, 1977 and reported in the Leader the following week. Space Shuttle test flights were conducted in 1981 and operational flights commenced in 1982.
Two catastrophes occurred in the program’s history. Though both tragic in lost lives, the Challenger (STS-51-L) explosion in 1986 hit the closest to home because it called into question the design of the O-ring seal in Thiokol’s SRMs. Blame was tossed around between NASA and Thiokol, but eventually it was discovered an O-ring did not seal in the cold weather of the Jan. 28 flight.
Be sure to watch for next week’s Leader as we document this historic final test.