With 300 employees looking on, the Ares I-X aft skirt rolled out of the Assembly Refurbishment Facility. Senior management including Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana, Mission Manager Bob Ess, ATK Program Manager Joe Oliva and United Space Alliance Associate Program Manager Roger Elliot spoke at the “pep rally” type event.
The aft skirt is on its way to the Rotation Processing and Surge Facility where it will be attached to the aft motor segment later this week, forming the aft assembly. Although this was an aft skirt for the shuttle program, the team made many modifications for this new vehicle. Some modifications include adding deceleration and tumble motors, avionics and a controller for the auxiliary power unit.
Once the aft assembly is complete, it will be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building to begin stacking operations in late June.
The launch of STS-125 was absolutely beautiful! That’s one of the best things about working in the space business — getting to watch the shuttle launch. If you haven’t ever had the chance to see a shuttle launch in person you might be interested to know that there is a whole lot going on at KSC leading up to the launch. For the few days before launch all of KSC is bustling with people from all over the world who have come to see or help out with the launch.
This time, two days before launch, the Ares I-X team took an overflowing busload of media to the Vehicle Assembly Building for an Ares I-X media opportunity. As we walked into the building, the media were in awe at how big the rocket is going to be. Until you see it in person, it is hard to get a reference for how big 327 feet can be.
We proceeded down to High Bay 4 to meet up with Bob Ess, mission manager, and Steve Davis, his deputy. We split up into groups and toured the bay from the floor as well as from the fifth level. The media had many questions and were excited to see how much progress we have made in processing the upper stage.
Videos, pictures and pens were going a mile a minute trying to capture every little detail. It was hard to get the media to leave the VAB and get back on the bus! If we let them, they would have stayed all day. Not to worry, we’ll be back in a month or less.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: