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.

First Stage Segments Are on the Move

 

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

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?

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

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


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. 

Forward Skirt Separation Test

Yesterday we successfully tested one of the main separation systems of the Ares I-X rocket at the Alliant Techsystems (ATK) facility in Promontory, Utah. The test demonstrated that the forward skirt extension, which houses the main parachutes will be able to separate from the first stage booster as it falls back to Earth after launch. 

During the flight test, the first stage booster will separate for the frustum, which is a cone-shaped piece of the rocket that connects the 12-foot-diameter first stage booster to the 18-foot-diameter upper stage. After the frustum separation, at an altitude of about 15,000 feet, the nose cone of the booster will be jettisoned and the pilot parachute will be deployed. The pilot chute will in turn deploy the drogue parachute, which will re-orient the booster to vertical and will slow it down enough that the main parachutes will be about to open. At about 4,000 feet the forward skirt extension separates from the rest of the first stage and pulls out the three main chutes packed inside. The booster splashes down and is recovered and reused.

During the test at ATK, a linear-shaped charge was used to separate the forward skirt extension and create a clean severance. Engineers also measured the shock created by the charge and will use that data to analyze the system and prepare for the Ares I-X flight test as well as the development of the Ares I rocket.

Ares I-X Media Event at Langley Research Center

About the Author:  Keith Henry serves as a Public Affairs Officer at NASA’s Langley Research Center.


Reporters gathered yesterday to see recently completed Ares I-X flight hardware on display at NASA Langley Research Center. The hardware, which was designed and built at Langley, is engineered to represent the outer surface of Orion crew module and a launch abort system that will increase crew safety on the Ares I rocket. Next week, the rocket hardware pieces will be shipped from Langley to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The simulated crew module and launch abort system will complete the nose of the rocket. As many as 150 sensors on the hardware will measure aerodynamic pressure and temperature at the nose of the rocket and contribute to measurements of vehicle acceleration and angle of attack.

The data will help NASA understand whether the design is safe and stable in flight, a question that must be answered before astronauts begin traveling into orbit and beyond.

See construction videos and images on the Ares I-X Web site.

Media Day Photo: While workers put the finishing touches on the Launch Abort System, left, and Crew Module simulators, reporters interviewed project officials and photographers and videographers captured the moment. The rocket elements are being placed on special flatbed trailers which will be rolled onto an Air Force C-5 for a two-hour flight to NASA Kennedy Space Center Jan. 28.

 

Welcome to the New Ares I-X Blog!

 

A few of us who work here at NASA on the Ares I-X team thought this blog would be a nice way to keep America and the world informed about the Ares I-X rocket and the first steps into NASA’s next generation of space travel. We’ll post news and information about progress and program milestones, but we’ll also try to give a behind-the-scenes peek at how a new rocket gets put together.

So what is the Ares I-X rocket? It is the first flight test vehicle for the next generation of NASA spacecraft –the Ares I rocket. In fact, the Ares I-X rocket has been built to resemble the size, shape and weight of the Ares I rocket so that NASA engineers will get valuable information that will help them design and fly the new rocket. Additionally, NASA gets a chance to test and prove launch operations on the ground that they’ll need for the new kind of rockets.

We put together this video to explain a little more about the Ares I-X and its mission. You can view it here in streaming Windows format.

The Ares I-X is first in a series of at least 6 vehicle flight tests scheduled by NASA to help get ready for the new Ares I. Launch of the Ares I-X is scheduled for later this year from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Stay tuned to this blog for more info and updates. As always, you can check out the Ares I-X web site at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/constellation/ares/flighttests/aresIx/index.html