Ares I-X hardware has the best nicknames.
These images show the Stack-5 Ground Support Equipment Lifting Fixture or as it is known to the I-X team, the “birdcage” being lowered over the Crew Module/Launch Abort System (CM/LAS) for a fit check. The birdcage is a metal framework that was collaboratively built and designed at the Langley Research Center in Langley, Virginia and Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It fits over the CM/LAS in order for it to be moved and stacked creating super stack 5.
The “birdcage” is bolted to the bottom of the crew module portion of the CM/LAS and then lifted into place (by one of the 325 ton overhead cranes in the VAB) and placed on top of the service module, which is already stacked on top of the Ares I-X rocket. Technicians can then remove the bolts — from inside the CM — and the “birdcage” is removed.
The second of the two roll control system modules for Ares I-X was installed into the rocket’s interstage this week in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.
These photos were taken in the Vehicle Assembly Building from the fifth floor crossover looking down into the bay.
The roll control system modules were loaded with their propellants at the Hypergol Maintenance Facility before being moved over to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The propellants (nitrogen tetroxide and mono¬methyl hydrazine) are hypergolic chemicals, which means they spontaneously ignite when they come into contact with one another.
The roll control system is designed to perform a 90-degree roll after the rocket clears the launch tower. It will also prevent the rocket from spiraling like a football during flight and maintaining the orientation of the rocket until separation of the upper and first stages.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.