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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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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.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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