Friday, August 14, 2009

Stacked and packed, Ares 1-x

From Lunar Pioneer 3
Long anticipated, with millions of miles of uncertainty still ahead, the report came by way of Twitter, this afternoon, from @NASA_Ares_I_X, proudly presenting this picture, fully available HERE and from which the above was cropped.

"For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a new space vehicle stands ready in the (Vehicle Assembly Building,)" at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the proud building built to stack the legendary Saturn Vs eventually carrying nine crews to the Moon between December 1968 and December 1972.

The final segments of the Ares I-X were stacked on Aug. 13, completing the 327-foot launch vehicle and providing the first look at the finished rocket’s distinctive shape. The Ares I-X flight test is targeted for Oct. 31.

“More than three years of hard work with the NASA and contractor team has brought us to this historic moment,” said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager. “This flight test is a critical step in continuing our design process for the Ares vehicle and the first flight for the Constellation Program.”

The Ares I-X is wired with more than 700 sensors to gather data during the two-and-a-half minute flight test. The launch will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I crew launch vehicle. The data collected during the launch will allow NASA to gather critical data during ascent of the integrated Orion spacecraft and the Ares I rocket.

Now that the Ares I-X is assembled, numerous evaluations will be run on all the rocket systems, including complex instruments that will constantly measure the vehicle’s movements as it launches and the first stage separates. The evaluations include a process called “modal testing,” which will shake the stack slightly to test stiffness of the rocket, including the pinned and bolted joints.

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