Yesterday, yet another portion of the Ares I-X rocket was stacked on the Mobile Launch Platform in Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building. Now that super stack 1 is up and on, the 327-foot rocket is more than half way assembled and the team is getting excited as they watch it take shape in High Bay 3.
Super stack 1 is composed of the fifth segment simulator, forward skirt, forward skirt extension, frustum and interstages 1 and 2. It also includes two internal elements – the roll control system and the first stage avionics module – as well as the parachute system housed in the forward skirt extension. The team used a massive overhead crane, specially adapted for I-X use, to place it on top of the forward motor segment.
Over the next month, four more super stacks with the final pieces of hardware (including the simulated crew module and launch abort system) will be mated, finishing off the stacking operations for the rocket. So, in about a month, NASA is going to be able to show off one of the biggest rockets the world has ever seen!
Ares I-X is scheduled to roll out to launch complex 39B just four days prior to its targeted liftoff of October 31.
With its telltale “Z” stripe showing, the aft center section of the Ares I-X first stage booster is hoisted into place. Using a 325-ton capacity crane, the aft center is being lifted so it can be joined to the aft section already in place on mobile launch platform 1.
Last week the aft section was placed on MLP 1 and locked down by four huge bolts — each of which has 750,000 pounds of tension in them when torqued down. The 100 foot horizontal and 90 foot vertical journey from the center transfer aisle of the VAB into VAB high bay 3 takes many hours due to the methodical nature of handling and moving solid rocket motor segments loaded with hundreds of tons of explosive propellant.
Once the aft center section is in place, the forward center section will soon be brought over and finally the forward section will be joined to the other three. Once we have all 4 sections stacked, we will be ready for the first non-rocket motor section called Super Stack 1.