The Last Piece of The Rocket Has Arrived!

The final piece of the Ares I-X rocket arrived at KSC on Thursday. The first stage segments trekked their way across the country (2,917 miles!) from ATK in Utah to KSC in Florida. They came by rail car and pulled in Thursday afternoon.

This is a big deal because the motor segments are the last piece of major hardware to ship. Now with the major hardware elements at the launch site, we can really get into stacking and watch the rocket take shape.

These motor segments that we’re using for the first stage are from the space shuttle’s inventory — that is they were originally built for the shuttle. Ares I-X made some modifications and added some new components to make them work for the flight test.

The first stage booster packs a punch too. It can generate 3.3 million pounds of thrust, and we’ll need every bit of that to launch the rocket. The first stage will give Ares I-X it’s lift-off capability and power it through the first 120 seconds of flight. When the motor is spent, it will separate and parachute back to Earth and be recovered and towed back to land to be reused.

Media Get Up-Close View of Ares I-X Hardware at KSC

Every time NASA launches a space shuttle we see a lot of reporters and media representatives descend on the press site at Kennedy Space Center. Last week as we got ready to launch STS-119 we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to take some of the reporters around to see the Ares I-X hardware. Right now, most of the pieces of the rocket are at KSC in various stages of processing and preparation, so there was plenty to see.

About 30 media reps joined us for a quick presentation and a Q&A session with Ares I-X Mission Manager, Bob Ess and Deputy Mission Manager, Jon Cowart. Afterward, everyone jumped on a bus and headed out on a tour of the processing facilities. We all got an up-close view of the hardware, the facilities and the people of the Ares I-X mission.

First, we stopped at Launch Pad 39B — the one Ares I-X will use — were we got a quick explanation of work being done to prepare the pad for launch. The reporters snapped shots of the new, 600-foot lightning towers surrounding the pad.

Then we went to the Assembly Refurbishment Facility, or ARF (yeah, I know), where we saw pieces of the first stage, including the aft skirt, forward skirt extension, forward skirt and frustum. Jon showed us all around and explained how each of the pieces will fit together to make the complete first stage.

The tour ended in the Vehicle Assembly Building — where the rocket will be stacked prior to being rolled out to the launch pad — where media took a peek at the pieces of hardware — remember the tuna cans? — that make up the upper stage simulator, as well as the simulated crew module and launch abort system that will top off the 327-foot vehicle for the test flight.

Meet … Sarah.

We have a lot of talented and interesting people working on the Ares I-X mission and we don’t take enough opportunities to introduce them to America, so I thought it would be a good idea to take this chance to present an article written by Denise Lineberry about one of I-X’s finest.

Sarah Hargrove has a talent for designing, whether it is rocket hardware
elements or the inside of a house.

If she wasn’t spending her days working as a designer on the Ares 1-X Crew Module/Launch Abort System (CM/LAS) project, she admits that she would likely be an interior designer.

“My kitchen has been four colors in two years,” Hargrove said.

But interior design doesn’t have quite the impact that designing for a back-to-the-moon rocket does.

“I am really inspired by the manned space program, and I love the attitude around a research center,” she said.

As a member of the NASA Langley Speaker’s Bureau, she enjoys sharing her work experience with classrooms of children.

“The children get really excited, and everyone raises their hands to ask a question and I often abandon what I prepared to talked about,” Hargrove said.

She has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers since her freshman year in college. Her membership has led her to schools and events such as a Girl Scout Engineering Patch Day, which is held every October.

“I try to inspire them to look into things themselves,” she said. “I always try to mention things that may interest them to become involved, such as the NASA student programs.”

Hargrove was motivated as a child. She grew up in Austin, Texas, and was raised in a family that valued education. Hargrove earned her BSME from the University of Texas, and she is pursuing her master’s degree in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech.

She thrives on knowledge.

“I like to be involved and find out more than what’s just required to do my job. Being exposed to information involving my project and getting access to places where I can learn and see more about what’s going on around NASA is very interesting to me,” she said.

“I’ve got my feelers out for good research opportunities. My sister is pursuing her PhD in biology right now, and I can’t let her be the only Dr. Hargrove.”

Her sister, Leah, who is a year younger, is her only sibling.

Hargrove enjoys playing sand soccer, something she wasn’t able to do in Austin. But she does miss Texas’ taco shops or “taquerias.”

“Virginia needs to import some good Mexican food,” she said.

Hargrove returns to Texas once or twice a year to visit with her family… and the taco shops.