Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ares 1-X rocket makes successful test flight

The world's tallest rocket set to carry America to the space station and beyond in 2015 launched into blue skies and into the next generation of space flight -- that is if the Obama administration provides the necessary funding.

Lift-off of the new Ares 1-X test flight from the Kennedy Space Center occurred at 11:30 am EDT today, following a two hour launch delay due to clouds and systems checks caused by several local lightning strikes the night before.

The launch team and technicians worked through a delayed countdown earlier this morning following some 150 lightning strikes which occurred within a five mile radius of Ares' launch pad 39-B overnight.

The countdown remained on hold at T-4 minutes through most of the four hour launch window. just when the launch team was ready to go at 10:45 am, Air Force meteorologist Kathy Winters at Cape weather called no-go due to a cloud in the area at launch time which could cause an electric condition known as triboelectrification.

Triboelectrification, by definition, is when electric discharge resulting from the accumulation of electric charge on an insulated body. So the launch team waited and continued to received updated weather reports from the air.

Once the white, brilliant candlestick cleared the launch tower at T+6 seconds, it's 2.6 million pounds of thrust forced Ares to rise sharply as it's solid fueled booster steered its "dummy" upper stage payload out over the Atlantic waters. At T+ two minutes and nine seconds, as the rocket booster's solid fuel expired, the upper stage separated on time and began it's decent into the waters off Cape Canaveral. Meanwhile, the rocket booster continued it's upward climb to an altitude of 29 miles caused by forward momentum.

Across the river from Cape Canaveral at Space View Park in north Titusville, a nice crowd gathered on a beautiful morning as the sun rose for the anticipated launch.

SpaceLaunch News publisher Mary Myers commented to this reporter on the turnout for a non-space shuttle flight, "It looks like people are still interested in the space program. People are turning out. Several of our local (Orlando) news channels are here, too."

In all the launch team has deemed this flight as a huge success, and will pour over all the data over the next year to make improvements and update designs as NASA now works to ready the next test flight, Ares 1-Y, in 2014.

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