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.
Stacking is set to begin for the Ares I-X vehicle on Wednesday, July 8 in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. It’s been a long time since the workers in the VAB have seen a new vehicle. In fact, it’s been 25 years since a new vehicle was stacked.
Following nearly three years of work by thousands of dedicated team members, the Ares I-X vehicle is ready for stacking on the Mobile Launch Platform, or MLP, in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.
Over the last week, the management team has met for reviews. Today, a “go” was given for the stacking operations. All of the modification work has been completed in VAB High Bay 3, as well as the Mobile Launch Platform, in preparation for the new Ares I-X vehicle.
Tomorrow, the Ares I-X aft assembly, composed of the aft skirt and aft motor segment, will be rolled from the Rotation Processing and Surge Facility to the VAB and lifted by overhead crane and placed on the MLP. (Be sure to check out the KSC gallery for photo updates.)
Over the next month, the stacking operations will continue with the additional motor segments, simulated upper stage segments and the vehicle will be completed when the simulated crew module and launch abort system is added to the top. (There will be a time-lapse camera. NASA will be posting video and images.)
We will keep you posted on this blog, on our Facebook page and Twitter.
Let the stacking begin!
The forward assembly, which is affectionately known around here as the “snow cone,” was rolled out of the Assembly Refurbishment Facility this morning on its way to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Employees and media came out to get a peek at the hardware.
The assembly was rolled into the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building, where it will wait to be lifted by crane into the high bay where the upper stage of the rocket is being assembled into its five super stacks. When these stacking operations begin later this month, it will be the first time a new vehicle has been stacked on NASA’s Mobile Launch Platform in more than 25 years!
The forward assembly connects the first stage motor segments to the upper stage simulator. Weighing more than 40,000 pounds, the assembly houses three newly designed descent parachutes for first stage recovery.
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.