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(Click to expand)

(Click to expand)  (Source: NASA)

(Click to expand)

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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amazing
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:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Budget#Annual_bu...

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.


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