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(Click to expand)  (Source: NASA)

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Ares I-X at Launch Pad 39B  (Source: NASA photographer Bill Ingalls)
No flight today for the Space Shuttle's replacement, maybe tomorrow says NASA

The Space Shuttles have been the workhorses of NASA for nearly 30 years, but they are due to be retired soon. NASA is going back to its rocketry roots with the Constellation program and is developing the new Ares I and Ares V launch systems as replacements. The Ares I rocket is intended primarily to launch human astronauts, while the Ares V will launch automated cargo missions.

The Saturn family of rockets were the first dedicated space rockets of the United States. All previous rockets used were adapted from military designs. Rockets such as the Atlas and Titan were primarily designed as InterContinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), with the payload being nuclear missiles. This generally worked well enough for low-earth orbit, but larger and heavier payloads needed a completely new design dedicated for space. The mighty Saturn V rockets were what took America to the Moon, and were seen as a symbol of the technological superiority of the United States.

It is fitting then that the first test flight of the Ares I rocket was supposed to occur on the 48th anniversary of the first Saturn I launch. Unfortunately, high winds and poor weather conditions have led to a postponement.
This test mission is designated Ares I-X, and is only the first of several planned test flights that will demonstrate and test multiple key components of the Ares I system. NASA wants to follow the methodology of the Apollo program and use multiple tests to validate their designs. That way improvements can be made early on and integrated more quickly.

There are two main stages to the Ares I rocket. The First Stage is a reusable solid fuel rocket derived from the Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters. It features a nozzle with thrust vectoring control. A fifth segment has been added in order to attain more thrust and a longer burn, but it will be inert for this test flight. It will be active during the second Ares I test flight in 2014, currently designated Ares I-Y.

The Upper Stage will be propelled by a new engine derived from the Saturn program. The J-2X engine will be fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. It will be built by Rocketdyne, the prime contractor for the original J-2 engines used by Saturn rockets in the Apollo program. The Upper Stage for Ares I-X will use simulators, but Ares I-Y will use the real thing.

The Orion crew capsule that will sit atop the Ares I is still being designed and will not be ready for spaceflight until 2012. Ares I-X uses a non-functional payload of the same size and shape known as a boilerplate. The entire Upper Stage, including the boilerplate, will fall into the Atlantic Ocean if all goes as planned.

The primary test objectives for Ares I-X will be to demonstrate flight control system performance during ascent and to test the Parachute Recovery System of the First Stage. The parachutes use Kevlar and are much stronger and lighter than the nylon versions currently used during Space Shuttle launches.

Another major goal is to gather data on the Ares I's roll torque during flight, which will reach a maximum height of 150,000 feet (45.72 KM). Roll torque is a major issue caused by vehicle aerodynamics and the manner in which the liquid propellant burns. Computer models have been used so far, but flight safety increases dramatically as more accurate and precise data is used.

NASA engineers will bring to bear more than 700 sensors to collect data during the six minute flight. A through analysis is not expected to finish until next year. There is a Critical Design Review currently scheduled for the Ares I in 2011, and the findings there will be based on lessons from tomorrow's launch.

The Orion 1 test flight in 2014 will be the first time all of the components of Ares I will fly together. The first manned test of Orion is also targeted for 2014 with the Orion 2 mission. Orion 3 through Orion 9 will see the first visits to the International Space Station starting in 2015.

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5 Years between test flights?
By eilersr on 10/27/2009 12:21:11 PM , Rating: 5
Did I read that right?

Ares 1-X testing soon...followed by Ares 1-Y in 2014?

I know NASA's budget is stretched thin and under a lot of scrutiny and I want them to succeed as much as anyone, but you really have to wonder what the heck is going on with this program.

I'm assuming there's going to be a lot of tests of other parts of the Ares program in the meantime, but DAMN...

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By bespoke on 10/27/2009 12:36:00 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I had the same reaction. We'll be lucky to see this thing in service by 2020 at this rate. Assuming it doesn't get complete canceled... :(

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By johnsonx on 10/27/2009 1:52:25 PM , Rating: 4
There is a very real possibility that the politicians, ever trying to out-flank each other to the left, will decide it's more important to give more handouts to the nation's losers than fund any legitimate national missions like space exploration.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By FaaR on 10/27/2009 6:13:01 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, why not just round up all the losers and put them in death camps? That way they won't cost you any more money (other than a few bucks for ammo for their execution).

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By Regs on 10/27/2009 9:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
How about we just shoot them into space in a rocket? Oh wait...damn.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By ipay on 10/28/2009 6:43:00 AM , Rating: 4
Use them as fuel for the power stations - solves 2 problems in 1 shot.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By mindless1 on 10/27/2009 11:32:31 PM , Rating: 2
Easy knee-jerk reaction, but it ignores facts. Fact is, constant testing of this rocket doesn't bring us any closer to our needed space exploration goals, the Saturn program already allowed getting space probes up there.

We need to be frugal with testing rockets and put more on development of drive systems, NEW drive systems not rehashes of ones that obviously won't be viable for deeper space exploration. Until then, no amount of launching expensive missiles dubbed rockets will matter.

On the other hand the whole point is benefit to the species, is it not? What is more beneficial to the species than helping those who are not productive become so, helping to keep civil peace, spending money on real needs instead of allowing disparity to cause crimes then we pay much more building prisons to house everyone?

Oh wait, we already do the latter and obviously it is an utter failure considering per capita incarceration. Sorry but we already tried it your way, now let's accept mistakes made and move forward in a productive direction instead. The stereotypes of pregnant teenagers and drug addicts do not apply to many people, the simple fact is there are fewer jobs that pay enough to support oneself and an equal share of family expenses than there are people.

You could then claim "but they shouldn't have kids", and yet many people have/had good jobs. Same could be said about your parents or mine, that they simply shouldn't have kids just in case someday their job vanishes. Some people find good jobs again, others don't. That's the problem with changing technology, global markets, outsourcing, etc.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By johnsonx on 10/27/2009 1:49:41 PM , Rating: 2
It is a bit long, but of course they do FAR more with computer simulations and design now. They'll get a ton of data from this flight, which will all go into more simulations and designs to build the next revision of the rocket and associated systems.

That said, I think the 1-Y flight date may be an error, as the article also says the full Orion 1 test flight will be in 2014 as well. Other info from a very quick google search says 2012 or 2013 for 1-Y.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By Jansen on 10/27/2009 2:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
The data that I received from NASA states that Area I-Y will be in 2014. There were supposed to be additional tests in between, but were eliminated due to budget cuts.

There have already been calls to cut out the Ares I-Y launch and go directly to the Orion 1 launch.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By kattanna on 10/27/2009 2:33:21 PM , Rating: 5
heck why even bother "wasting" money on that test flight.

lets just stick the astronauts on top and light that baby

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By AEvangel on 10/27/2009 2:36:08 PM , Rating: 2
It makes sense by the time they get these rockets working and usable the main purpose of it, the international space, station will be closed.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By mellomonk on 10/27/2009 3:42:50 PM , Rating: 3
The main purpose of the Aries I is not to be a taxi to the ISS. It is the crew carrying portion of the Constellation system which could eventually take us back to the moon and on to mars.
The Aries 1x flight really is more or less a 'mock-up'. The four segment booster is from the shuttle inventory. Everything north of it is a 'boilerplate'. They simply threw this together as a sort of 'proof of concept'.
The Aries Iy flight on the other hand is with final hardware, 5 segment booster, full up upper stage with J-2X engine, ect. The Orion 1 adds the Orion orbital vehicle and escape system. It does seem like a long time between now and then, but their is still a great deal of design work to be done. The final designs will not even be set until 2011/20012. Check out the Nasa Constellation quarterly video podcast. It is amazing to see how much goes into the development of these vehicles. It also shows how amazing and frantic the development of the Apollo system was. If only we had the budget, political will, and public interest of those days now.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By steven975 on 10/27/2009 5:05:49 PM , Rating: 2
Aries 1 IS the ISS taxi!

Aries 4 is the Orion launch Vehicle for extra-orbital missions.

Aries 5 is the Cargo/lander/SM launch vehicle for extra-orbital missions. Not much difference between 4 and 5.

The 1x is nothing like Aries 1. There's nothing NEW on it AT ALL other than the airframe shape.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By mellomonk on 10/28/2009 1:43:31 PM , Rating: 2
Aries 4 was a design study. It is not going to be built. At this point the only portion of the system that they are going to 'man rate' is Aries 1. Aries 5 is cargo only at this point.

Actually the tea leaves are very cloudy for both 1 & 5. There is a good chance both will be scrapped.

RE: 5 Years between test flights?
By JediJeb on 10/27/2009 5:18:09 PM , Rating: 2
You would think that with the super computers of today we could work much faster than the sliderules of yesterday. The guys designing back then put some serious work into the Saturn program. National Pride and a desire to do something that had never been done before were major driving forces that we just don't have now. If we had that same mindset today I wonder how fast we could get this program finished with the tools we have now.

By ArcliteHawaii on 10/27/2009 9:26:34 PM , Rating: 2
That's what we have the Russians for. But don't forget, WE won the space race.

PR stunt....
By maven81 on 10/27/2009 3:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
It's sad to say but this is nothing more then a PR stunt. The first stage is incomplete and the second stage is incomplete. This launch can't answer one of the most important questions about the first stage, and that's whether the 5 segment booster will work well. As such this is nothing like the final configuration, and seems to be an attempt to launch something, anything! just to get people's attention. In my opinion they are only doing themselves a disservice. It would be like Boeing rolling out the 787 with 747 engines. We know the 747 engines work, what does this prove!

RE: PR stunt....
By ChristopherO on 10/27/2009 4:47:46 PM , Rating: 2
It proves you don't know how to build a huge rocket without potentially blowing people up?

RE: PR stunt....
By steven975 on 10/27/2009 5:08:57 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. This is one big stunt to try to convince the powers that be that they are far along on this rocket when they are anything but.

The only question it will answer is whether the shuttle SRB can carry any cargo. It will also give insight into the thrust oscillations inherent in SRBs that may very well scrap the whole Ares 1 for manned flight.

RE: PR stunt....
By cmdrdredd on 10/27/2009 5:21:47 PM , Rating: 2
Actually you're both wrong. It's an attempt to capture the imagination of people again. Give people something to reach for that we once had. NASA was once well respected and every kid dreamed of being part of it. Now it's made out to be a joke and is the last thing on the list of areas to put funding into, behind even banks who get our money anyway.

See NASA wants people, ALL PEOPLE, to reach for something greater than themselves again, to touch the stars, and dream of what we might do as a people if we really put the effort into it. NASA wants the government to realize that we would be squandering an area of exploration that has given us a lot of the products and ideas we use today. There is a lot we can gain from space exploration, I might be very alone to believe that deep down we need NASA and the space program to continue. Humanity should always be looking up to the heavens for answers, for amusement, in wonder, and in awe. I believe this because the answers to many of the questions we have in life on this planet can be answered in space.

RE: PR stunt....
By cmdrdredd on 10/27/2009 5:33:05 PM , Rating: 2
I also want to say that some of the areas that the government puts money into won't go anywhere and will not give anything back. Take climate change. I don't agree with the idea that we're doing it. Some of you may, but lets put that aside. Lets assume they try to do something about it. Can you make China and India also put equal amounts of money into the same programs? No, you can't and I doubt they would do it. The biggest offenders won't help and regulate themselves so we are wasting our time there.

On the other hand, the space program has given us many advancements in technology, medicine, and some every day conveniences. Some of these include things like Emissions testing, engine designs, electric cars, cordless power tools, laser surgery, doppler radar, advanced lubricants, physical therapy, portable x-ray machines, thermal protection, velcro, wireless communications, satellite TV transmissions, home insulation, insulin pumps, artificial heart, Magnetic resonance imagine (MRI), pacemakers and many other things that we take for granted. All of these are derived from space exploration and research either out of necessity or pure research and study.

RE: PR stunt....
By maven81 on 10/27/2009 5:39:22 PM , Rating: 2
Forget the emotion for a second and look at it from a technological point of view. The fact that this is derived from shuttle technology and they still don't want to risk launching a full 5 segment booster says a lot. As does the fact that it's costing tens of billions of dollars to take existing tech and modify it. As does the fact that they created such a MASSIVE rocket just to launch a crew into earth orbit!
They need a kick in the pants. Progress would be launching a larger crew with a much smaller rocket for a lot less money, in a lot less time. This is embarrassing, and if you want us to succeed in space I don't know how you can support this white elephant.

By bobsmith1492 on 10/27/2009 12:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
That is such a sweet rocket... it must have been so exciting back in the day when the Apollo program was doing this for the first time. No wonder so many people wanted to become engineers at the time.

RE: amazing
By stromgald30 on 10/27/2009 12:29:04 PM , Rating: 5
The reason it was fun for engineers at the time was because engineers got a chance to be engineers instead of bureaucrats.

Here's a clear example:

Back when they were designing the J-2 (Saturn V main engine), they built one hundred of them. They would test one until they accidentally blew it up, ruined it, or just wore it out. Then they would get another one from the warehouse, tweak/fix it, and start testing within days.

Now, in the aerospace industry, with money becoming tighter, they build a handful of engines (usually two or three). When there's a failure in testing, they put a bunch of Ph.D's into a room and argue about it for months before starting the next test. Sometimes they spend as much money on scientists arguing as it would take to build a new engine and test it again. Instead of maximizing economies of scale in response to money constraints, they've increased the bureaucracy.

RE: amazing
By taber on 10/28/2009 12:02:52 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, bureaucracy has definitely grown over time. NASA's always at risk of what the current president wants too. Plenty of time and effort has been expended on projects that were later abandoned.

Then there's money, NASA's budget has never been close to what it peaked at for the Apollo program:

On the upside, their budget hasn't shrunk in recent years, it's just been relatively stagnant. The ISS and Shuttle take so much of their budget, when those die off in the coming years that'll help immensely.

I'd personally rather have seen good American jobs created by increasing NASA's budget than some of the other things they've done the last couple years. I'm typically not a fan of big government, but NASA spending doesn't typically bug me, especially recently.

Damn it
By FITCamaro on 10/27/2009 11:58:33 AM , Rating: 2
Freakin wind. I'm down in Orlando today and wanted to be able to step outside and watch it go up. Going home tomorrow so probably won't be able to watch it.

RE: Damn it
By kattanna on 10/27/2009 1:30:37 PM , Rating: 2
dont worry, it will launch tomorrow, right after you have left visual range of it.


RE: Damn it
By geddarkstorm on 10/27/2009 1:35:31 PM , Rating: 2
I was watching via stream, and was rather disappointed too when they started doing their "Go" for flight from each station, and then they paused at weather for about half a minute... before the dreaded "No go". Got so close to clearing up, but that dang wind.

It should be really impressive to see too, since it's almost the size of a Saturn V. Actually, in one of the cam shots, they got a view the shuttle on its pad "nearby", and the comparison was quite interesting.

a rocket?
By RamarC on 10/27/2009 7:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
dang guys! it's nearly 20-friggin-10 and we're still 'testing' rockets.

where's the ion drive? where's the magnetic propulsion drive? picard will never get to order warp factor 5 and say "engage" at this pace!

RE: a rocket?
By Regs on 10/27/2009 9:29:14 PM , Rating: 2
Not just any rocket, dey carry thangs!

RE: a rocket?
By mindless1 on 10/27/2009 11:39:29 PM , Rating: 2
Well if you personally have finished all your outer space rocket testing and can give them a few pointers, by all means shoot them an email.

By Randomblame on 10/27/2009 6:07:54 PM , Rating: 2
We have to wait till tomorrow to see it explode... this thing has been so rushed and underfunded it's ridiculous, they're not even going to test the 5th stage of the srb it has a dummy compartment instead, the Aries 1y doesn't launch for 4 more years to let us know if the design will work at all and yet they're planning on launching the Aries2 that same year with a crew!? Remember after the Columbia went down the whole nasa culture changed for the better with more testing and safety - that's all gone now, they know that the future of our space program depends on this thing launching as soon as possible whether it is safe or not.

RE: sucks
By Regs on 10/27/2009 9:32:04 PM , Rating: 2
Changed for the better? It got worse. It likely takes the president to authorize a repair now.

By FlyingMonkey38 on 10/28/2009 1:27:35 AM , Rating: 2
2014?! 5 years to add just one more stage to the SRB? This is way too long. If this is true, I doubt Orion will be ready by 2015.

Budget deficit will kill NASA
By itbj2 on 10/28/2009 5:20:19 PM , Rating: 2
NASA better get off their a*** and put something together because by 2014 there might not be any money available to fund the agency. By 2018 the government will have to pony up over a trillion USDs a year for the retirement programs. So if you ask your self what will the government do, feed the retired people who go out and vote in droves or pay the salaries of a bunch of PhDs who are in a time warp recreating the Apollo program? The answer is quite obvious.

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