NASA's Ares I-X moon rocket makes first test flight

Oct 28, 2009
A cone of moisture surrounds part of the Ares I-X rocket during lift off Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, on a sub-orbital test flight from the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39-B in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off at 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-minute powered flight.

NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off at 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-minute powered flight. The test flight lasted about six minutes from its launch from the newly-modified Launch Complex 39B until splash down of the rocket's booster stage nearly 150 miles down range.

"This is a huge step forward for NASA's exploration goals," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Ares I-X provides NASA with an enormous amount of data that will be used to improve the design and safety of the next generation of American spaceflight vehicles -- vehicles that could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit."

The 327-foot tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g's and Mach 4.76, just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a sub-orbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster.

Parachutes deployed for recovery of the booster and the solid rocket motor will be recovered at sea for later inspection. The simulated upper stage, Orion crew module, and launch abort system will not be recovered.

"The most valuable learning is through experience and observation," said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager. "Tests such as this -- from paper to flight -- are vital in gaining a deeper understanding of the vehicle, from design to development."

Wednesday's flight offered an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities, and ground operations - important data for future space vehicles. During the flight, a range of performance data was relayed to the ground and also stored in the onboard flight data recorder. The 700 sensors mounted on the vehicle provide flight test engineering data to correlate with computer models and analysis. The rocket's sensors gathered information in several areas, including assembly and launch operations, separation of the vehicle's first and second stages, controllability and aerodynamics, the re-entry and recovery of the first stage and new vehicle design techniques.

The Ares I-X efforts are led by the Ares I-X mission management office of the Constellation Program, based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland designed and built the vehicle's upper stage mass simulator. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., provided aerodynamic characterization, flight test vehicle integration and the crew module/launch abort system mass simulator. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., with contractor support, provided management for the development of Ares I-X avionics, roll control, and first stage systems. The Kennedy Space Center provided operations and associated ground activities and launch operations.

Provided by NASA

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axemaster
5 / 5 (2) Oct 28, 2009
"The flight cost $445 million."

Before anybody starts raging, keep in mind that it's a lot cheaper to test the thing using dummy modules, than to lose a completed ship worth billions. The difference is well over an order of magnitude in cost.

"and stressed that the entire effort is underfunded."

I'd say they're doing very well, given the limitations on them. NASA continues to attract the smartest people this world has to offer, and it shows. Well done NASA.
droid001
not rated yet Oct 28, 2009
The flight cost $445 million and lasted a mere two minutes.
so expensive?
flashgordon
2 / 5 (2) Oct 28, 2009
cost wouldn't matter if we ever got around to tapping space resources; space resources would pay back astronomically; but, lets not ever mention this; something that should(had been by the original space pioneers Robert Oberth/Werner Von braun and so on and so forth) be noted; but, somehow is never;
antialias
4 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2009
Do you have any idea how many tonnes of material you'd need to bring back in order to make up for the cost of just one such launch? And then think about how many such lauches you need to get a functioning mining and shipping operation going anywhere on the moon or on some asteroids. (Oh did I mentioned it has to be fully automated and run hitch-free for a looooong time in order to be economically viable? This is something we haven't managed to do yet either - but I digress)

We haven't even gone prospecting, yet.

Off world resources sound nice, but currently the initial cost is not worth it. When launching stuff becomes mainstream/cheap (or earth-bound resources run out) then we will probably see it in one form or another. Until then there's still quite a bit of research/development to do.
otto1923
5 / 5 (2) Oct 28, 2009
Do you have any idea how many tonnes of material you'd need to bring back in order to make up for the cost of just one such launch?

He-3 for use in fusion reactors and mined on the moon: at a projected value of $40,000 per ounce, 220 pounds of helium-3 would be worth about $141 million. But youre right, space resources will be a lot more valuable to space-dwellers. What we want to do is spread humanity around the inner system as quickly as possible. To prevent extinction. The value- Priceless
NeilFarbstein
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2009
Do you have any idea how many tonnes of material you'd need to bring back in order to make up for the cost of just one such launch?

He-3 for use in fusion reactors and mined on the moon: at a projected value of $40,000 per ounce, 220 pounds of helium-3 would be worth about $141 million. But you re right, space resources will be a lot more valuable to space-dwellers. What we want to do is spread humanity around the inner system as quickly as possible. To prevent extinction. The value- Priceless

We can use solar powered VASIMIR plasma engines to navigate the inner solar system. That might include Mars.
pookawiz
not rated yet Oct 28, 2009
Commercialization for the space race would be a win for the USA.
vidar_lund
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2009
The flight cost $445 million and lasted a mere two minutes.
so expensive?


They don't specify what's included but this is a prototype so probably included lots of R&D. Anyways I think it's a beautiful design, very clean and simple. The space shuttle was a big mistake.
movla
4 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2009
Real world has vary differences between dreamily world. we are in real world and scientific exploration needs much money. We shouldn't forget space exploring in 1950 and making us new phenomena about world. I'm thanks to NASA and all scientist. Thanks
Sanescience
not rated yet Oct 29, 2009
Who ever started the band wagon for He3 needs to be found and "re-educated". He3 got started because someone noted in a theoretically ideal reaction, no hard neutron radiation is generated. Well guess what, you aren't going to coax super heated plasma into an orderly and strictly ideal reaction free of neutron radiation. NOT to mention it requires ridiculously HIGHER temperatures to achieve fusion than less exotic fuel reactions. NOT to mention that we haven't even been able to achieve the EASIER lower temperature fusion process for 40 years. NOT to mention that it is only thought that the Moon has more He3 that earth, an assertion that is unverified. Oh, and the mass estimated for powering current US demand for one year would be around 17 tonnes of PURE He3. That doesn't even measure the energy and cost of the HERCULEAN task of separating and purifying it from the lunar regolith.

But I digress, woot, way to go NASA!
probes
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2009
Way to go NASA! All we now need to do is to add 1KW VASIMR engine. They we can go to the moon in 39 seconds! Yow!
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 29, 2009
Well guess what
youre a pessimist. He-3 may prove to be the ideal fusion power source. Getting there is only a matter of time, research, and application.
NOT to mention
you WRITE funny. Oh, and but hey-
danman5000
not rated yet Oct 29, 2009
Way to go NASA! All we now need to do is to add 1KW VASIMR engine. They we can go to the moon in 39 seconds! Yow!

And kill anyone onboard from the massive acceleration! Yay!
Buyck
not rated yet Oct 29, 2009
Big but first important step is made! I hope the rest will follow soon. So Obama fund that project and settle humans on Moon and Mars forever.
probes
Oct 29, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
droid001
not rated yet Oct 29, 2009
The flight cost $445 million and lasted a mere two minutes.
so expensive?


They don't specify what's included but this is a prototype so probably included lots of R&D. Anyways I think it's a beautiful design, very clean and simple. The space shuttle was a big mistake.

Costs of the F-22 Raptor fighter - 351 mln. USD (with weapons)
So you think 327-foot rocket with lots of R&D cost almost the same as small plane?
defunctdiety
not rated yet Oct 29, 2009
Do you have any idea how many tonnes of material you'd need to bring back in order to make up for the cost of just one such launch?

Mining the resources of space is pointless until we have processing and manufacturing facilities in space. The whole point (or at least the great majority of the point) of mining space resources would be so we don't have to build/launch from earth anymore.
probes
1.5 / 5 (2) Oct 30, 2009
Yes, Mining the resources of space is pointless until we have processing and manufacturing facilities and VASIMR rockets in space. The whole point of the VASIMR (or at least the great majority of the point of the VASIMR engine) is that we get there in 3.9 days, so to of mining space resources would be so we don't have to build/launch from earth anymore with a VASIMR engine.

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