A federal report says the nation will avert a shortage of ammonium perchlorate if Pacific Engineering and Production Co. reopens its new plant by late spring.
The firm is building a $58 million facility near Cedar City, Utah, to replace its Henderson, Nev., plant, which was destroyed by a fiery explosion last May 4.The chemical, now being produced only by Kerr-McGee, is an oxidizer for solid rocket fuel and makes up nearly 70 percent of the propellant.
"We're pleased with their progress," Royce Mitchell, solid rocket booster program manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said Friday. "It's been a real painful process to get that financing lined up.
"I feel good about the progress we're making," Mitchell said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News. "I don't expect any problems with getting the plant qualified."
But the fuel from the new plant will have to go through requalifying tests to verify the mixture is as pure and powerful as expected, said Mitchell.
"Like the new stuff that comes off the line, it'll go through the same process (of qualifying), although a little more elaborate build up to a full-scale test," he said, adding, "I don't see this as a biggie."
An employee of Marshall Space Flight Center, which oversees propulsion systems for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was transferred from his base at Morton Thiokol Inc.'s Brigham City plant to Las Vegas to oversee plans for the new plant.
A full-scale solid rocket booster test is planned for spring or summer 1990 at Morton Thiokol's Wasatch Operations facility to check whether the oxidizer works as it should, Mitchell said.
If the plant 15 miles west of Cedar City is not opened as planned, the General Accounting Office report says, a 14 million-pound ammonium perchlorate shortage would occur.
The report, however, said NASA has sufficient supplies to power space shuttle flights through April 1990.