The Brains of the Operation

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The Ares I-X avionics system is known as the “brains of theoperation.” Last week the first stage avionics were installedin the third, or aft, piece of the fifth segment simulator in the VehicleAssembly Building at KSC.

Avionics controlevery active portion of the test flight, from liftoff to navigation to datacollection and parachute deployment. In addition to controlling the rocket, theavionics will be collecting, transmitting, and storing engineering data before,during, and after the flight. The information gathered by the avionics systemwill be incorporated into further computer simulations and analyses to helpNASA better understand how the Ares I crew launch vehicle will fly and interactwith its environment. 

Avionics hardwareis being installed in nearly every part of the Ares I-X flight test vehicle,from the crew module and launch abort system simulators to the aft skirt of thefirst stage.

 

You can read more about Ares I-X avionics on Wikipedia:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ares_I-X

 

Ares I-X is growing smarter everyday!

Aft Skirt Hot Fire Test…Check!

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Today, Ares I-X passed another significant milestone when engineers and technicians successfully completed a hot fire test of the hardware at the Aft Skirt Test Facility at Kennedy Space Center.

The hot fire test is actually a series of tests performed on the Aft Skirt –primarily the Thrust Vector Control (TVC) System. Before the test, the fuel systems are checked for leaks and filled with hydrazine (rocket fuel). The hot fire is a two-minute run of the Auxiliary Power Units (APU) using the hydrazine just as it would on launch day. The electro hydraulic servo-actuators, which control the direction the nozzle is pointing, are commanded to move to various positions to make sure they respond properly to commands. Additionally, the power units are run at 100%, 110% and 112% of capacity to assure that all redundancy modes are working properly.

When the test has been successfully completed the hydraulic systems are left as they are and the hydrazine is taken out. The system will stay in that condition until the Ares I-X vehicle is at the launch pad where the system will be refueled with hydrazine in preparation for launch.

With this milestone complete, the aft skirt will be transferred to the Rotation Processing and Surge Facility next month and attached to the aft motor segment. When attached, these two pieces of hardware make up the aft assembly and will be the first hardware to be stacked on the Mobile Launcher Platform in the Vehicle Assembly Building when that process begins in June. 

The Last Piece of The Rocket Has Arrived!

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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

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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.

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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.

First Stage Segments Are on the Move

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The first stage segments are just about ready to go. They have a long trip ahead of them from first stage contractor ATK’s facilities in Promontory, Utah to the launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Last week, using specialty transporters, ATK moved the Center Aft Segment to a holding facility where it will be housed in preparation for the cross-country trek via railcar. Some one described these transporters as looking like something out of the Transformers movie and I don’t think that’s too far off. They are impressive looking vehicles.

That big black line you see running diagonally down the side is called a Z-stripe. The Z-stripe is a 24-inch wide stripe painted on the first stage motor segments that wraps from the top of the motor to the bottom.  The main purpose of the Z-stripe is to provide a way for the I-X team to determine the roll attitude and rate from footage recorded by cameras on the ground. That footage serves as a backup to on-board data gathered during the flight.  The Z-stripe will also provide confirmation that the rocket rolled 90° shortly after lift-off from the pad like it is supposed to. Measurement from watching the Z-stripe could be very helpful in the case that the flight goes differently than expected.

We’re expecting to ship the motor segments next month. They are the last few pieces of hardware to ship, so once they make it down to KSC, we’ll be ready to start putting the rocket together.

Final Newly Manufactured Segment Arrives at KSC for Ares I-X Launch

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The Ares I-X team was very excited on Friday when the frustum rolled into the Assembly Refurbishment Facility at Kennedy Space Center, making it the final newly manufactured segment to arrive for this summer’s Ares I-X launch.

The frustum is the segment between the Forward Skirt Extension and the upper stage of the Ares IX launch vehicle.  As you can see, it looks a lot like a giant funnel. Its main function is to transition the flight loads from the thicker upper stage to the thinner first stage. It weighs in at approximately 13,000 pounds, and is 10 feet long. It’s composed of two machined, aluminum-forged rings that are attached to a conic section. The large diameter of the cone is 18 feet, while the small diameter is 12 feet. The thickness of the cone is only 1 ¼ inches! Kind of amazing.

Now that the frustum is at Kennedy, technicians will begin the final processing and it will be integrated to the forward skirt and forward skirt extension to make the forward assembly. The completed forward assembly will be moved over to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking operations scheduled to begin in April.

With the arrival of the frustum, the team now waits for the final rocket components to arrive — the motors. The rocket motors, manufactured by ATK in Utah and shipped via rail to Kennedy, are scheduled to arrive next month. 

Tuna Cans at Kennedy?

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Take a look at this photo:

That’s definitely hardware, but it’s not a space shuttle! It is an Ares vehicle being stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.  The Constellation Program is on the move towards the Ares I-X launch and things are moving along pretty well. More and more flight hardware is pouring into KSC and the Ares I-X team is now starting to put the rocket together.

In the center of the photo, the ballast is being lowered into one of the upper stage simulator segments. The ballasts mimic the weight of the solid rocket fuel that will be needed to launch the Ares I — a total of weight of about 160,000 pounds. It’s important that Ares I-X carry these ballasts so it can to gather important data that will help engineers build the Ares I. The upper stage simulator segments are nicknamed the “tuna cans” because they look like…well tuna cans. They simulate what will be the upper stage rocket on the Ares I.

For more photos in the VAB, try out this link:

http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/search.cfm?cat=166

 

Beating Swords Into Plowshares: The Ares I-X Roll Control System

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The Ares I-X flight test vehicle is being built from a lot of off-the-shelf components, such as the solid rocket booster first stage, which is coming directly from the space shuttle inventory, or the avionics, which are from the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. However, one of the lesser-known off-the-shelf parts for Ares I-X is the Roll Control System, or RoCS.

The RoCS four thrusters fire alongside the rocket in short pulses to control the vehicle’s roll. After clearing the launch tower, the Ares I-X rocket will be rolled 90 degrees to the same orientation that the Ares I rocket will use. Once that maneuver is completed, the RoCS keeps Ares I-X from rolling during flight like a corkscrew or a football spiraling downfield. This required a rocket engine that could be turned on and off like a thermostat — only when needed to maintain position within a certain range.

There were actually a couple of choices: one was to use reaction control thrusters from the space shuttle. However, Ares I-X would have needed four thrusters per RoCS module — eight in all for the mission. However, with the Shuttle production lines shut down and Ares I-X being an expendable rocket, the Shuttle program couldn’t afford to part with any of their thrusters. Another option — the one eventually chosen — was the upper stage engine of the Peacekeeper missile system, which was in the process of being demilitarized and dismantled as part of the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II).

The Peacekeeper’s axial engine (or AXE) met several of the Ares I-X requirements, including the fact that it was a reliable, off-the-shelf system; it was able to handle the on/off pulsing cycle needed for the flight; its thrust was such that only two engines would be required per module; and it was relatively low-cost and available for use. (The Air Force agreed to transfer the axial engines NASA needed as well as the engines’ propellant and pressurization tanks, “for just the cost of shipping,” as RoCS team leader Ron Unger put it.).   

What a fantastic use of these components: instead of being used for their original mission as part of a nuclear weapon, they are contributing to the first step in America’s next generation of space exploration!

NASA Langley Ares I-X Rocket Elements Arrive at NASA Kennedy Space Center

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It takes a mighty big airplane to transport a 43-foot-long piece of hardware, not to mention a 16 foot wide, 7 foot tall simulation of the crew module that will take our astronauts to the moon.


The Ares I-X launch abort system (LAS) simulator rolled off an Air Force C-5 transport Jan. 28 after landing on the NASA Kennedy Space Shuttle runway.  The LAS simulator, which represents the tip of the Ares I-X rocket, was designed and built at NASA Langley Research Center. 

The Ares I-X crew module, in blue, and supporting hardware were unloaded after the two-hour flight from Langley to Kennedy.

The crew module and launch abort system simulators, wrapped in blue, took their place among other Ares I-X hardware in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA Kennedy. 

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