OPAD Status Report: Investigation of SSME Component Erosion 921030
Significant erosion of preburner faceplates was observed during recent Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) test firings at the NASA Technology Test Bed (TTB), Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Al. The OPAD instrumentation acquired exhaust plume spectral data during each test which indicate the occurrence of metallic species consistent with faceplate component composition. A qualitative analysis of the spectral data was conducted to evaluate the state of the engine versus time for each test according to the nominal conditions of TTB firing #17 and #18. In general the analyses indicate abnormal erosion levels at or near startup. Subsequent to the initial erosion event, signal levels tend to decrease towards nominal baseline values. These findings, in conjunction with post-test engine inspections, suggest that in cases under study, the erosion may not have been catastrophic to the immediate operation of the engine.