Engine/Nozzle Installation System

Stennis Space Center in Mississippi is NASA's largest rocket engine test facility. See engine test videos here.. Installing an engine and nozzle in the test stand and preparing it for testing is a precise procedure requiring the accurate positioning to align hundreds of bolts in a circular pattern simultaneously.

To perform this alignment procedure, we developed a system that allowed the operators to lift a 6,000-lb nozzle into position and align the bolt pattern by floating the nozzle on a cushion of air between 2 large machined aluminum plates. Using a joystick, the operators could position the nozzle north/south/east/west in the horizontal plane. The air bearing worked so well that the rotational alignment was achieved by rotating the 6,000-lb nozzle by hand.