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The Ares I rocket passed the first of many tests before it can launch into space carrying Orion

The NASA Ares I rocket, which will ferry Orion into space, has passed internal preliminary design reviews after 24 engineers signed off on the review.  NASA has $3 billion per year set aside for development of the Ares rocket and Orion space capsule over the next three years.

“This is a critical step for development of the Ares I rocket,” said Rick Gilbrech, associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. “Completing the preliminary design review of the integrated vehicle demonstrates our engineering design and development are on sound footing, and the Ares I design work is taking us another step closer to building America’s next mode of space transportation.”

NASA has not had to carry out preliminary design reviews since 1973, when the current generation of space shuttles had its design review approved, NASA said in a statement.  Even though most of the rocket has not been constructed, these early tests are to ensure the design, plans, and software necessary for the rocket are able to meet strict safety procedures.  The team developing Ares are next going to try and figure out if shock absorbers should be added to help reduce excessive vibrations that take place during launch.  

Once the rocket is further along in development, there will be another test that is scheduled to take place in March 2011.  It will undergo its first unmanned test sometime in 2009, NASA wanting to launch the test in either June or July.

"It is an important milestone in the progress of the exploration effort," said Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

NASA hopes Ares and Orion will help the U.S. space agency return to space by 2015 and to the moon by 2020.  There will be a five-year window where the U.S. government and NASA are trying to figure out if they are going to pay the Russian space program millions to help ferry NASA astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Recent political tensions between Russia and Georgia, in which Russia launched airstrikes and sent tanks into the country, has caused U.S. politicians to reconsider if it wants to put its trust into the hands of the Russian space agency.  The recent turmoil has caused some people within the space industry to look into the plausibility of extending the current shuttle fleet's deployment a couple more years.





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