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late 1960s | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981
Late 1960s: President Nixon establishes the Space Task Group to make recommendations regarding America's next decade in space. The group brainstormed future options, including the possibility of building Mars, lunar, and Earth-orbiting space stations, as well as the development of a reusable Shuttle.
April 30, 1970: NASA awards three $6 million contracts for Phase B studies on the Space Shuttle Main Engine to Aerojet-General Corporation, Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell Division of North American Rockwell, and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.
March 1, 1971: The Mississippi Test Facility (known today as the Stennis Space Center) is selected as the site for sea-level testing of the Space Shuttle Main Engine.
January 5, 1972: President Nixon formally endorses plans for the Space Shuttle. Following the announcement, NASA Administrator James Fletcher says the Space Shuttle "will change the nature of what man could be in space. By the end of decade the Nation will have the means of getting men and equipment to and from space routinely."
March 15, 1972: Dr. Fletcher announces that the Space Shuttle will be powered by recoverable and reusable solid rocket motors in a parallel burn configuration instead of pressure-fed, liquid-fueled rockets. The "choice was made in favor of the solid parallel burn because of lower development costs and lower technical risks," Fletcher said.
April 1972: Kennedy Space Center and Vandenburg Air Force Base are selected as Shuttle launch and landing sites.
August 23, 1972: A definitive contract for the Space Shuttle Main Engine is signed with Rocketdyne.
During 1972: Studies by NASA and the aerospace industry concentrate on the technical and economic aspects of the different kinds of boosters.
August 16, 1973: NASA signs a contract with Martin Marietta Corporation for the design, development, and test of the external tank.
November 20, 1973: NASA signs a contract with Thiokol Corporation for negotiation of a contract for the design, development, and test of the Solid Rocket Boosters.
November 21, 1973: Drop tests using a solid rocket booster scale model and a three-parachute recovery system were conducted. These tests would determine the feasibility of keeping parachutes attached to the booster, rather than releasing them on impact with the ocean after separation.
March 26, 1975: Rocketdyne completes the first Space Shuttle Main Engine a month ahead of schedule. The engine was built solely for static testing.
During 1975: The solid rocket motor test project is defined. The resulting development program will include seven full-scale motor static tests and delivery of 12 flight motors for the first six development flights.
During 1975: A 405-foot-tall Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand at Marshall was modified under a contract involving the Army Corps of Engineers and Universal Construction to provide a mated ground vibration test facility. The structure would be used to test the vehicle's in-launch and boost configuration to determine the bending modes and dynamic response during launch and ascent conditions. The orbiter Enterprise was used later in tests at the facility.
During September 1976: The Space Shuttle Main Engine critical design review was conducted, clearing the design for further testing.
July 18, 1977: The first firing of a Solid Rocket Booster takes place in Utah. The motor runs for about two minutes in what observers describe as a "near-perfect" test. The motor is referred to as Development Motor-1.
March 18-19, 1978: About 85,000 people gather at the Marshall Center to get a close-up look at the Space Shuttle test orbiter Enterprise and a complete external tank.
May 10, 1978: In a static firing, a Space Shuttle Main Engine successfully completes a test at 100 percent of its rated power level for the full duration expected during actual flight.
May 19, 1978: Three Space Shuttle Main Engines roar to life in the first major test of the Shuttle's main propulsion system. Orange flame and a huge cloud of white smoke pour from beneath the stand during the 15-second burn.
February 17, 1979: The test of the solid rocket motor Development Motor-4 , the final development test motor, is conducted. These tests verify the basic design requirements and pave the way for solid rocket motor qualification testing designated as Qualification Motor-1 and Qualification Motor-2.
March 19, 1979: The NASA barge Poseidon, with Space Shuttle components aboard, pulls out from the Marshall Space Flight Center dock to begin an 11-day trip to Kennedy Space Center. On board are the external tank and two Solid Rocket Booster nose cap forward skirt assemblies. The items will to be used at the Kennedy Center for training in stacking the Space Shuttle on the mobile launcher platform.
late 1960s | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981
February 13, 1980: The solid rocket motor passes its final major test with a 2-minute firing at Thiokol's Utah facility. This test is referred to as Qualification Motor-3.
March 13, 1980: The first full-power level test (109 percent of rated power level) of the Space Shuttle's Main Engine is completed.
July 26-27, 1980: The third Space Shuttle Main Engine is reinstalled on the orbiter Columbia over the weekend at Kennedy Space Center. The other two engines had been reinstalled the previous weekend. The three engines had been removed from Columbia and shipped to National Space Technology Laboratories for a series of successful test firings that recertified them for flight.
November 7, 1980: The pairing of the Solid Rocket Boosters and the external tank for STS-1 is completed in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.
December 2, 1980: The fourth and final cycle of preliminary certification tests of the Shuttle's Main Engine first flight configuration is completed.
December 3, 1980: Engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center's Huntsville Operations Support Center work in teams around the clock to support the final major test of the Space Shuttle as an integrated flight system.
December 29, 1980: A fully stacked Columbia arrives at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39, pad A.
January 17, 1981: NASA's test version of the Space Shuttle's main propulsion system successfully completes its last scheduled test firing. The firing, which lasted 10 minutes, 29 seconds, is the 12th and longest test of the system to date.
February 20, 1981: The Space Shuttle three main engines roar to life for 20 seconds on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center during the flight readiness firing of Columbia's main engines.
February 27, 1981: Testing of the method to repair areas of loosened insulation on the external tank is completed at the National Space Technology Laboratories.
March 19, 1981: The Dry Countdown Demonstration Test is conducted for STS-1.
March 30, 1981: The external tank is declared ready for flight following repairs to its thermal protection system and subsequent testing at the Kennedy Space Center.
April 12, 1981: Columbia begins its voyage with a flawless 7:00 a.m. (EST) launch. Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen guide the vehicle into orbit. The historic flight concludes two days later when Columbia lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
late 1960s | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981
Compiled by Julia Sawyer
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