Thursday, October 15, 2009

NASA ARES 1X rocket to rollout on Tuesday

The future of America's human space flight will take it's first baby steps on Tuesday morning as NASA sends out to the launch pad a new rocket designed to replace the space shuttle fleet in the coming years ahead.

The Ares 1X rocket test launch will be the first step in the beginning of the Constellation program which will consist of both Ares 1 and Ares 5 rockets transporting Americans and her space partners to the International Space Station and beyond.

Rollout from high bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center is scheduled to begin one minute after midnight this Tuesday morning as it rides a top Mobile Launcher Platform #1. Approximately 7 hours later, the MLP should arrive at launch pad 39-B following it's slow crawl over four miles.

Rollout was originally planned for this Monday, but
"During testing late on October 14, hydraulics engineers detected a gaseous nitrogen leak in the accumulator which is located in the aft skirt of the rocket. The pressurized nitrogen is leaking past a seal and into the area of the accumulator containing hydraulic fluid. The accumulator absorbs hydraulic pressure spikes as the system operates. The accumulator (was) removed and replaced today," according to Kennedy Space Center officials.

Pad 39-B has supported space shuttle launches since 1986 and was recently decommissioned to begin supporting the Ares program.

Launch of the new Ares is scheduled for October 27th at 8AM EDT - the launch window is four hours and is dictated by workers rest. Much like the first space shuttle launch, the launch team will be working through an entirely new launch countdown procedure book and the computers will be checking to ensure is item is completed before it commits to launch.

Once launched, technicians here at Kennedy will collect data on several key points:
  • The way the Ares 1 leaves the pad and rolls
  • How the Ares handles under staging
  • Aerodynamic loads as it reaches Mach 1 and beyond and the stress loads of 2.5 G's
  • and dummy capsule return
Once Ares 1X launches from pad 39-B, it will generate 2.6 million pounds of thrust as it rises to begin a new era of space flight, that is if the Obama administration elects to keep Ares.

The Ares first stage will separate at an altitude of 130,000 feet out over the Atlantic Ocean, however due to it's forward velocity of Mach 4.7, the Ares will travel up to around 150,000 feet before falling back. will have LIVE video coverage of the unmanned flight beginning at 7AM EDT on launch day. Follow us via Twitter @spacelaunchnews.

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