Monday, March 31, 2008

NASA press briefing on Ares 1 questions on Thursday

An oscillation and vibration problem thought to be inherent in the design of the Ares 1 booster, scheduled for full weight testing next year, is "fixable," according to reports. NASA will conduct a press "teleconference" briefing on Ares 1's "tiger team" findings, at 1630 UT, Thursday, April 3.

According to Aviation Weekly:

"Scott (Doc) Horowitz, a four-time shuttle veteran who later headed NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate as Ares I development was getting under way, said March 28 that the tiger team assembled to address the problem has found it tractable in a way that shouldn't impede the Ares I preliminary design review coming up this summer.

"Early estimates of the scope of the problem were overly conservative," Horowitz said. "Instead of threatening the health of the crew and damage to some vehicle hardware, the actual vibration levels generated as the solid-fuel first stage burns out can be handled with relatively straightforward mechanical fixes."

"You can mitigate this throughout the whole vehicle," Horowitz said. "You can do it on the top of the first stage. You can do it on the interstage. You can do it by the orientation of the tanks. When you get up to the CEV and service module, then you can put shock absorbers in the seats."

Horowitz, now an independent aerospace consultant whose clients include ATK, the Ares I first-stage contractor, and a "greybeard" advisor to NASA through the NASA Engineering and Safety Center, served on the tiger team that reviewed the thrust oscillation issue after it arose last fall.

Garry M. Lyles, the senior NASA engineer who headed that review panel, is scheduled to brief Congress on his findings" this week.

Concerns raised recently about the design for the rocket planned for launching NASA's next manned space vehicle and successor Orion were raised about whether the vehicle's design may not withstand vibrations Shuttle astronauts have come expect when the Solid Fuel Booster first stage of the Ares 1 design burns out and may be easily mitigated, by small changes throughout the vehicle.

NASA's announced Monday Thursday's teleconference participants will, "discuss findings from the Ares I thrust oscillation focus (tiger) team. The team has been studying possible vibration concerns in the early designs of the new crew launch vehicle NASA is designing as part of the Constellation Program."

Participants at the Ares 1 teleconference are expected to include Rick Gilbrech, associate administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington; Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate; Steve Cook, manager, Ares Projects, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville and Garry Lyles, associate director for technical management, also at Marshall.

The teleconference also will be audiocast live at begining at 1630 UT, Thursday, April 3.

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