The space shuttle’s final ground test on its reusable solid rocket motor (RSRM) has been carried out by Nasa and Alliant Techsystems (ATK).

The ground test programme has been in place since the beginning of the shuttle programme to qualify materials, improve motor performance and understand its flight characteristics.

The RSRM measuring over 126ft in length and 12ft in diameter generates the equivalent of 15 million horsepower throughout the duration of the test, which lasted about two minutes.

During the test, 43 design objectives were measured through 258 instrument channels.

Objectives included ensuring that the quality of the final shuttle motors matched that required to safely put astronauts into space, and demonstrating performance of minor upgrades and testing acoustic measurements around the aft end of the motor to provide valuable data for the Ares programme.

Data from the test will aid in continued development of the five-segment motor, which is scheduled for its second ground test later this year.

Upgrades for the five-segment motor are expected to improve overall system reliability and reduce system costs going forward.