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Final ground test on shuttle rocket completes: NASA

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Space Shuttle Atlantis. A file photo

SALT LAKE CITY (US) (AP): A Utah Company that makes powerful booster rockets for space travel has conducted its final ground test for the nation's fading space shuttle program.

The firing, with the 38.4-metre rocket anchored horizontally to the ground, ignited more than 450,000 kilogramme of propellant in a split second and took about two minutes to burn off, according to Alliant Techsystems and NASA.

About 5,000 people came to northern Utah's Promontory near the Great Salt Lake to watch it fire, a company spokeswoman said.

"Anytime you test a rocket out here, it's pretty impressive," said Trina Patterson.

NASA officials said the test went smoothly but that data collected from hundreds of sensors have not yet been fully analysed.

The solid motor is the same kind that will help lift the space shuttle in its last four scheduled missions.

The space shuttle test - the 52nd since testing started in 1977 - was intended to ensure safe liftoff for the upcoming shuttle flights.

"These solid rocket motors have proven themselves to be the safest and most reliable human-rated launch system," Charlie Precourt, an ATK vice president and shuttle astronaut said in a statement.

The test marks a turn for the company and the nation's space program.

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