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Space History Photo: Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) Test Firing

space history, nasa, rocket propulsion
A Space Shuttle Main Engine undergoing a full power second test firing in May of 1981. (Image credit: NASA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) undergoing a full power level 290.04 second test firing at the National Space Technology Laboratories (currently called the Stennis Space Center) in Mississippi. The firings were part of a series of developmental testing designed to increase the amount of thrust available to the Shuttle from its three main engines. The additional thrust allowed the Shuttle to launch heavier payloads into orbit.

The Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) had management responsibility of Space Shuttle propulsion elements, including the Main Engines.

Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: nasa.gov