Friday, October 23, 2009

NASA Go for Tuesday's Ares 1-X Test Flight

NASA and the launch team at the Kennedy Space Center are officially GO for launch of the test flight of the new Ares 1-X rocket on Tuesday morning, however the weather stands to delay launch based on the current forecast.

Ares I-X launch director, Ed Mango stated today, "It's great to be part of a team that put a rocket together in the time it took. The team is ready to go fly. The vehicle is ready to go fly."

But weather woes could force a launch day delay for NASA's new rocket which they are hoping will take America to the International Space Station following the space shuttle's retirement in 2010.

Launch of the Ares 1-X flight is set for Tuesday morning at 8:00 am EDT, from launch complex 39-B. The launch window is four hours. If weather violates launch morning flight rules, NASA then has launch opportunities on both Wednesday and Thursday to try again.

Launch morning will begin at 1AM EDT, at the T-7 hour mark. There is only one hold in this countdown at the T-4 minute mark. Meteorologists from Cape Weather will launch a weather balloon to collect upper atmosphere data.

As the countdown moves along, more weather balloons will be launched and the rocket will begin to come to life as avionics and recorders are powered up. At 7:36 am, the countdown will hold for 20 minutes at the T-4 minute point. During those 20 minutes, launch director Ed Mango will poll the team to ensure the readiness to proceed. Listen for key "Go's" from both weather officer Kathy Winters and Range Safety during the poll.

In the final minute of the count, the SRB auxiliary power units will be started; final navigation software updates will be uploaded; and a final gimbal check of the SRB thrust nozzles will be performed.

Once Ares 1-X clears the launch tower at T+6 seconds, it will fly up to an altitude of 130,000 feet before the second stage separates from the solid rocket boosters first stage.

Following a successful flight test by the Ares 1-X, a second test flight - Ares 1-Y - is currently targeted for mid-2014. On the heels of that successful flight, the third test flight, Orion 1, will see a full compliment of the Ares 1 vehicle, including five segment SRB and a real uncrewed Orion crew module.

This first test flight is a large step toward understanding the groundwork in getting Ares 1 into delivering humans to space by 2015.

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