Checking Out Hardware at the VAB

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.

Getting Locked and Loaded and Ready to Roll

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.

Aft Skirt Hot Fire Test…Check!

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. 

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