On Wednesday, October 28, 2009, NASA launched its Ares I-X prototype vehicle, the first launch from Kennedy's pads of a vehicle other than the space shuttle since the Apollo Program's Saturn rockets were retired. NASA's Constellation Program's 327-foot-tall rocket produced 2.96 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and reached a speed of 100 mph in eight seconds. The two-minute sub-orbital test flight encountered a few problems along the way, as the launch pad was slightly damaged, a planned stage separation did not go according to plan, and a possible parachute failure led to a hard splashdown for its first stage. The Constellation program is under pressure as a recent committee report depicted it as overly expensive. The Obama administration is set to make a decision in the next several months about the near-term direction of U.S. Space Policy.
Smoke engulfs Launch Pad 39B as the Ares I-X test rocket takes off from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 11:30 a.m. EDT on October 28, 2009
Ares I First Stage Motor Unveiled on July 20, 2009. The Ares first stage five-segment development motor is 154 feet in length and generates a maximum of 3.6 million lbs of thrust, 24 percent more power than one twin Shuttle solid rocket booster.
Flames shot more than 100 feet high in a successful 5.5-second ground test firing Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008 of a launch abort motor for NASA's next generation spacecraft, the Orion crew exploration vehicle. NASA and the Orion industry team conducted the firing at the Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, facility in Promontory, Utah.
NASA and ATK successfully conducted an Ares I main cluster parachute test at the U.S. Army Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona. The test was conducted on May 20, 2009. It involved three 150-feet diameter parachutes lowering a 41,500 Pound test weight to the desert floor. The parachute system will be used to recover the first stage of Ares I. It was also used to recover the first stage of Ares I-X following its test flight.
On Sept. 10, 2009, NASA and industry engineers lit up the Utah sky with the initial full-scale, full-duration test firing of the first stage motor for the Ares I rocket. The 154-foot solid rocket motor produced heat two-thirds the temperature of the sun and its 12-foot-diameter cylinder delivered 3.6 million pounds of thrust.
At the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, hardware that will be used in the launch of the Ares I-X rocket is offloaded from a C-5 aircraft. The hardware consists of a precisely machined, full-scale simulator crew module and launch abort system to form the tip of NASA's Ares I-X rocket.
A-3 Test Stand Construction at NASA's Stennis Space Centre in in Hancock County, Mississippi. Nine water, isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and liquid oxygen (LOX) tanks have been delivered and installed, with five more water tanks scheduled to arrive in upcoming weeks. The two IPA tanks shown on the left and the three LOX tanks shown on the right are 35,000 gallons each. The four water tanks in the centre are 39,000 gallons each. All 14 of the tanks will be used by the chemical steam generators units that will be installed on the A-3 stand for creating simulated altitudes of up to 100,000 feet, a testing environment for Constellation, initially to validate the performance of the J2-X engine for the upper stage of the new Ares I launch vehicle
In High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, the Ares I-X upper stage simulator service module/service adapter (left, centre) has been installed on a stand. Other segments are placed and stacked on the floor around it. Ares I-X is the test vehicle for the Ares I, which is part of the Constellation Program to return men to the moon and beyond.
In the Vehicle Assembly Building's High Bay 3 at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, the Ares I-X aft centre booster segment is lowered for attachment to the aft booster and skirt.
In High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, technicians move a second roll control system module into place for installation in the Ares I-X segment.
The NASA Railroad hauls cars carrying the Ares I-X motor segments and nozzle exit cone over a river bridge to NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The four reusable motor segments and the nozzle exit cone, manufactured by the Ares I first-stage prime contractor Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, departed Utah March 12 on the seven-day, cross-country trip to Florida.
The oxygen vent arm and hood removed from the fixed service structure at NASA Kennedy Space Centre's Launch Pad 39B is ready for transfer from the pad to a storage facility, after the pad was transferred from the Space Shuttle Program to the Constellation Program. The ground operations team is modifying pad B for the Ares I-X rocket launch. Modifications also include installing access platforms and a vehicle stabilization system.
In the Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, a technician performs propellant grain inspection of the inside of the Ares I-X motor segment. It is one of four reusable motor segments and nozzle exit cone shipped by the Ares I first-stage prime contractor Alliant Techsystems Inc. for final processing and integration in the facility. The booster used for the Ares I-X launch is being modified by adding new forward structures and a fifth segment simulator.
In the Vehicle Assembly Building's High Bay 4, assembly of the Ares I-X rocket nears completion. The yellow framework, nicknamed the "birdcage," lifts Super Stack 5 toward an opening at the 16th floor crossover into the transfer aisle. The stack will be positioned on top of the segments already in place on the mobile launcher platform in High Bay 3, completing assembly of the 327-foot-tall rocket. Five super stacks make up the rocket's upper stage that is integrated with the four-segment solid rocket booster first stage.
In the Vehicle Assembly Building's High Bay 3, a yellow framework, lifts Super Stack 5 atop Super Stack 4. Once in position, assembly of the Ares I-X rocket will be complete. The 327-foot-tall rocket is one of the largest processed in the bay, rivaling the height of the Apollo Program's 364-foot-tall Saturn V.
The Ares I-X rocket, shown in in High Bay 3 of Kennedy Space Centre's Vehicle Assembly Building is being prepared for the Launch Vehicle Readiness Test in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Monday, October 5, 2009.
The 327-foot-tall Ares I-X test rocket moves slowly to launch pad 39B from the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009.
NASA's Ares 1-X rocket rolls out to launch pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Centre October 20, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The top section of NASA's new Ares 1-X test vehicle is reflected in a pond as an alligator lurks near launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida on October 26, 2009
The Ares 1-X test rocket lifts off on a six-minute suborbital flight from launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, October 28, 2009.
NASA's Ares 1-X rocket lifts off from launch pad 39-b at the Kennedy Space Centre October 28, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.