Ares 1-X to Fly October 27
Thursday, October 22 2009 @ 03:40 am EDT
Contributed by: bobmoody
America’s next step into space is about to enter the testing stage. The Ares1-X test flight vehicle has been assembled, and transported to the newly renovated launch complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center. From whence once rose the mighty Saturn V toward man’s first steps onto another world, now stands the beginning of what may take man back to the Moon, and possibly on to Mars.
How cool is it that the first test launch of the NASA’s new Constellation Program is about to take place this month? If all goes as planned, October 27 will be the day that the first stage of the new rocket configuration will take flight. The upper stage will be unmanned and unused, except for several hundred sensors designed to “feel” how well things are going with the solid rocket first stage. The four-segment first stage is technology that is well tested since it is designed and built by the same company that has provided twin solid-rocket boosters for every shuttle launch for the last 25 years.
|The new Ares 1-X stands ready for its first flight tests on October 27. At 342 feet tall, it almost reaches the record height of the Saturn V’s 363 feet.|
The launch will test the lower portions of the rocket and how well it works to put the top section high enough into space to allow the upper stage engines to send it the rest of the way into orbit. It will look like a normal liftoff and roll-and-pitch program, but as the solid rocket booster's energy drops below 40,000lb of thrust, the separation will take place and the upper half of the rocket will coast on until it falls back into the ocean some 125 nautical miles downrange. The recovery of the lower stage will depend on the parachute operating properly. Tests of the parachute earlier this summer worked perfectly to a level equivalent that of a 250,000lb load limit. The expected 110lb/sq ft stress of the parachute material was met, so the lower stage should parachute back to Earth safely.
|How this first launch will go. The primary reasons for this test is to qualify the booster, the parachute that will recover it after it's fuel is spent, and the entire lower half of the rocket. The top half of the rocket, loaded with sensors, will fall back into the ocean never reaching a speed sufficient to obtain orbit.|
Where the Apollo/Saturn program used 3 stages altogether to place the manned Command Module (CM) in orbit around the Moon and back to Earth, that was obviously a very wasteful endeavor. ALL of the rocket EXCEPT for the CM was never used again.....its sole purpose was to boost the CM to the Moon and back, and land the Lunar Module and power it back to the lunar orbiting CM, then jettisoning the remainder of the LM and allowing it to fall back to the Moon's surface to calibrate seismic measuring devices on the lunar surface.
The Ares 1 rocket will only "waste" the upper stage of the rocket with its J-2X engines, which are based on the Shuttle engine design and considered to be safe. By reusing the solid-fuel booster stage and the new 6-man rated Command Module, we'll see savings with every flight. Another safety factor with the new Command and Service Modules is that instead of using Hydrogen fuel cells in the Service Module, that dangerous method of creating water, electricity, and so much of what was needed in the Apollo missions, the Orion Command and Service Module will utilize solar panels to generate the power needed to operate the systems on board, and carry the water and oxygen with them.
If the Tuesday, October 27th launch date is met, we'll see this first crucial step in the change-over from the Space Shuttle as our main Earth to orbit vehicle. We will see at least 2 or 3 more test flights between now and 2012-2013 when the Constellation Program has its first manned flights, as the final 6 Shuttle flights bring that era to its inevitable end. It's a new day with this upcoming launch, and I, for one, am really excited to see it begin.