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Shuttle Booster Rocket Test Fired

Shuttle Booster Rocket Test Fired

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PROMONTORY, Utah (AP) -- As NASA prepares to resume space shuttle flights, one of the solid-fuel booster rockets has been test fired at ATK Thiokol's plant north of Great Salt Lake.

"This (test) gives us confidence in the two boosters we do have at the cape," Retired Maj. Gen. Michael Kostelnik, NASA deputy associate administrator, said after Thursday's static, or stationary, test.

"This is a motor that is one month older than the actual stack that we are preparing for launch this May," Kostelnik said. "This is sort of the certification we need to ensure the time is good for that vehicle to launch."

Kostelnik said NASA is considering launching Discovery between May 12 and June 3.

The date was expected to be set at a meeting Friday, and, "It will be near the opening of the window," he said.

The test was not necessary for Discovery's upcoming flight, but it could ease any safety concerns about older rocket equipment, said Mike Kahn, ATK Thiokol vice president of space programs.

"We want to be able to say more than, 'We know it is safe.' We want to be able to show it is safe," he said.

Astronaut Tony Antonelli was among several thousand people watching the two-minute test that sent up a billowing cloud of smoke and dust.

"I used to think we knew everything about rockets," said Antonelli, who is waiting to be assigned to a flight. "We're still learning things about this technology."

The 126-foot-long rockets are made from reusable motors, which are refueled and assembled after being shipping by railroad to the launch site.

"The propellant is an evolution from the one we used in Minuteman missiles, and we've fired them after more than 30 years," Kahn said.

Thiokol, a division of Alliant Techsystems, has been making boosters for NASA since the shuttle program started in 1981.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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