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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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for more details regarding the Ares I rocket.