Print 22 comment(s) - last by grath.. on Oct 29 at 11:18 PM

10 seconds after launch  (Source: NASA)

  (Source: NASA)

View from Main Stage during sub-orbital flight  (Source: NASA)
The first test flight will hopefully not be the last

NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off at 11:30 EDT earlier today from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first stage lasted for two minutes of powered flight as planned, while the entire mission lasted approximately six minutes from launch to the splashdown of the first stage almost 150 miles away.

The Ares I-X rocket produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust, accelerating the rocket to nearly 3 G's and a top speed of Mach 4.76. The rocket reached a peak sub-orbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation the first stage from the main stage.

The Ares I is the first new rocket to launch from the Kennedy Space Center since the Space Shuttle in 1981.

"This is a huge step forward for NASA's exploration goals," said Doug Cooke, the Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"Ares I-X provides NASA with an enormous amount of data that will be used to improve the design and safety of the next generation of American spaceflight vehicles -- vehicles that could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit."

The Ares I-X mission was conceived almost four years ago as an early demonstration for the Constellation program, which envisions a manned return to the Moon. The Ares program includes the Ares I rocket which will carry crews into Earth orbit, and the much larger Ares V to launch cargo.

"I can't say enough about this team," Cooke added. "They've been together probably a little over three years now, and they went from a concept to flying this vehicle in that period of time, which is the first time this has been done by a human spaceflight team in a long time

Today's test flight will be followed by the Ares I-Y test flight in 2014, following years of data analysis and computer modeling. Flight engineers were especially concerned about roll torque, and will be carefully scrutinizing the data collected by over 700 onboard sensors.

A wide range of performance data was relayed to the ground during the flight and also stored in the onboard flight data recorder. This flight test engineering data will be examined to see how well it correlates with current computer models. The sensors gathered information during several key aspects of the mission, including assembly and launch operations, as well as the separation of the vehicle's first and second stages.

There was some initial speculation that the new kevlar parachutes being used for the first time did not deploy properly. They are part of the first stage which will be recovered for inspection. The simulated Upper Stage and boilerplate fell into the Atlantic Ocean as planned and will not be recovered.

"The most valuable learning is through experience and observation," said Bob Ess, the Ares I-X's mission manager. "Tests such as this -- from paper to flight -- are vital in gaining a deeper understanding of the vehicle, from design to development."

NASA was promoting the flight as an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities, and ground operations.  However, there have been calls to scrap some test missions and even a push to abandon the Ares I rocket completely. This early test flight gives the Ares program significant public visibility, making it harder to cancel during the next round of budget cuts.

Overhanging the mission was a 157-page report by a panel ordered by President Obama to review the Constellation program. They found that the program was on an "unsustainable trajectory" due to insufficient funding and unrealistic schedules.

Instead of using the Ares I, the panel recommended relying on commercial crew transport services from companies like SpaceX. NASA would focus instead on developing heavy-lift rockets like the Ares V for deep space exploration.

Please refer here for more details regarding the Ares I rocket.

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By randomposter on 10/28/2009 7:44:13 PM , Rating: 2
a) United States
b) China
c) Russia
d) Japan
e) India
f) Multinational effort
g) Other

By Goty on 10/28/2009 7:49:46 PM , Rating: 5
Can we have a choice e) "The United States, assuming congress stops cutting NASA's funding"?

By tdktank59 on 10/28/2009 8:33:08 PM , Rating: 3
you mena choice h) since e was already listed...

By Goty on 10/28/2009 11:04:22 PM , Rating: 3
Haha, wow... I don't even have an excuse for that one....

By overzealot on 10/29/2009 8:45:06 AM , Rating: 3
India: It's the new America.

By delphinus100 on 10/29/2009 3:37:57 AM , Rating: 2
"It doesn't really matter which nation puts a man on the moon next, that's been done and any nation achieving it now should be publicly shamed for taking so damned long after it's been done, including the US."

Why? 'Hey, it's the first time for US .' is a valid response from whatever nation does it.

"The first nation to actually mine/occupy the moon, now that will be interesting. Yknow, do something else with it except look at rocks."

Now, this is true. I don't care so much about who gets there next as who does it in such a way as to make it stick. (And the current Constellation architecture will not let the U.S. do that...)

"There are far more interesting, and profitable, places to go to. And if we had put some more effort into it, all nations that is, we could've been reaching those places by now."

The Moon is still interesting. Don't let six Apollo landings four decades ago fool you, we're hardly finished with it yet. And international bureaucracies will suck money and time without results, even better than NASA well as such projects being held hostage to the continued good will between all countries involved.

By grath on 10/29/2009 10:35:36 PM , Rating: 2
I believe Jack Schmitt of Apollo 17 said something like "We stopped just when we were getting good at it."

There is MUCH more of actual tangible benefit that can be accomplished on the lunar surface than any other destination, assuming of course that we go there to stay this time. The mining you speak of, actually building things there, in-situ resource utilization, these are not new concepts, they are the things we should have and could have been doing in the 70s.

(And the current Constellation architecture will not let the U.S. do that...)

Im not so sure about that. Once we have the vehicle to get there, its really about the payload we choose to send. The Altair lunar module reportedly has a uncrewed cargo capacity of 15 metric tons (wiki), and thats nothing to sneeze at.

There are also plans to design modular aspects into the descent stage such that hardware left behind can be reutilized for outpost operations, the airlock on the descent stage being one known feature. Also nice big gas tanks should be perfectly salvagable, and hopefully the frame itself will be modular spaceframe or erector set like pieces that can be disassembled and reused.

As far as payload, how much will it really take to establish a small permanent base?

- A solar power tower to erect on the tip of a permanently lit crater near the south pole

- Alot of cabling to run downhill to a flatter area

- Earthmoving (moonmoving) equipment like a dragline excavator to dig big holes

- One or more Bigelow-type inflatable habitat module to put in the holes

- A couple pressurized rovers, several more unpressurized

- A few emergency airlock shacks to tow around to EVA worksites

- Various robotics and communications equipment

Im no rocket scientist, but it would seem that with proper planning, modularity, and focus (and funding duh) such a small base could be established in less than 10 landings. Probably more like 6-8.

By anantou on 10/29/2009 2:03:50 PM , Rating: 2
WTF?! You forgot the EU!!!!!!!!!!!! (And yes it counts as a single country if u ask)

By grath on 10/29/2009 10:52:21 PM , Rating: 2
My vote is for the Terran Growth Conglomerate. Always liked that name, think its "The Company" from the Alien franchise. I say just go all in and form a public multinational space agency that actually makes things happen. Governments want in on the action? Well they can buy a share just like everyone else. Who controls distribution from the solar power satellite constellation we build? The shareholders, not a single government.

Space is not the place to be in competition or opposition with your neighbor for any reason, its the place to all be on the same page so you dont die a horrible tragic death and risk losing your funding out of political queasyness.

By Randomblame on 10/29/2009 1:41:43 AM , Rating: 2
Excelent launch, they have plenty of information to know what to change for aries 1Y, maybe with the fifth booster segment installed that seperation won't be so scarey.

RE: bravo
By randomly on 10/29/2009 10:06:55 AM , Rating: 2
Ares I-Y was canceled.
Let's hope Ares I is canceled completely. It's an enormous waste of money to duplicate launch capability that already exists with EELVs and it won't be flying till 2017-2019 so by the time it's ready to fly the ISS will already be reaching it's end of life.

We can't afford to develop two separate launch vehicles. We need to just focus on a HLV that's crew rated such as Ares V lite, Ares V classic, Jupiter, or SD-HLV.

Ares I costs are going to choke the life out of NASA. It needs to go to save the NASA human space flight program.

RE: bravo
By grath on 10/29/2009 11:07:37 PM , Rating: 2
Do you reject Earth orbit rendezvous and lose upmass by putting the whole stack on one HLV or do you propose using two HLVs per lunar sortie? Wouldnt using an HLV for ISS or other low mass LEO missions be wasteful overkill? There is still commonality between Ares I and Ares V boosters, the only new thing really is the upper stage. I think you are overstating

By Pneumothorax on 10/28/2009 11:34:00 PM , Rating: 3
Instead of using the Ares I, the panel recommended relying on commercial crew transport services from companies likes SpaceX.

This is BS. I've yet to see a successful private company launch man into LEO. When's the last time Virgin Galactic sent people up for even suborbit? At the glacial pace private manned spaceflight is going, I'm expecting them to reach the moon by 2029

By 91TTZ on 10/29/2009 10:54:50 AM , Rating: 1
We launched a prototype of a rocket that is similar to ones which flew 40 years ago, and the next test flight is scheduled for 2014.

To put this progress into perspective:
Project Mercury began in 1958
First US man was in space within 3 years, May 5, 1961
20 days later, JFK says we will have a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Project Gemini put 2 people in space by 1965
According to schedule, we landed a man on the moon on July 20, 1969.

At the beginning of that decade we were still working out the details of how to put a man into space. By the end of that decade, we had landed men on the Moon twice using the largest and most powerful rocket to have ever flown.

That was during a day when political correctness took a back seat to factual correctness, and when we had an attitude that was more concerned with getting the job done than to look good trying. We were elitist and focused on hiring the absolute best instead of putting "diversity" before capability.

That was at a time when even a Democrat had large-scale ambitions that benefited the country instead of focusing on handouts.

Nowadays the country has lost its ambition. It is so paralyzed by fear that we wait years before the next test flight and even the smallest projects are strung out for decades.

I'm sure many people feel comfy with the way things are now and will attempt to deny how much more efficiently things were done back then, but the results speak for themselves.

Time is not on NASAs side
By itbj2 on 10/29/09, Rating: -1
RE: Time is not on NASAs side
By Orac4prez on 10/29/2009 3:30:48 AM , Rating: 1
No, No, NO!!! Congress will approve more funds. Secret conversations overheard at the Treasury confirm the fact that they are going to send all the toxic debt to the moon. All the debtors need to do is go to the moon to collect the interest payments! NASA will happily provide a service to the moon.... at a very nominal cost, plus a small fee to ship the money back! The surplus will then go back to the Treasury. Perhaps they will send Madoff to the Moon and he can return when he has paid of his debt!

RE: Time is not on NASAs side
By grath on 10/29/2009 11:18:57 PM , Rating: 2
Its tied to the conspiracy that has been selling people lunar real estate for years. One day there will be a mysterious computer error and all the debt will be transferred to the people who were stupid enough to believe they were buying lunar real estate.

Typical Response
By JHarold on 10/28/09, Rating: -1
By straycat74 on 10/29/09, Rating: -1
By grath on 10/29/2009 11:14:50 PM , Rating: 1
Send a live monkey into space to examine the effects of low gravity on a mammal?


"Studying the effects of microgravity on human physiology"

which has been been a stated mission objective for every single manned mission since Gagarin.


"Space is fun but it slowly and constantly is damaging you a little bit and you have to exercise with bungee cords alot"

Yup... coulda told you that 40 years ago.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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