2 parachutes malfunctioned in NASA test flight

October 30th, 2009 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer in Astronomy & Space / Space Exploration
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)


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)

(AP) -- Two of three parachutes malfunctioned in the test flight of a prototype moon rocket earlier this week, causing major damage to the booster, NASA said Friday.

The problem caused the Ares I-X to slam into the Atlantic Ocean harder than expected. The booster was badly dented by the impact.

Mission manager Bob Ess said Friday the damage is irrelevant because the booster is not meant to fly again. The parachute trouble does not detract from the overall success of Wednesday's flight, he said.

"Don't play this too much," Ess urged reporters. "The parachute thing was like 'Hey, look at that.' We're not worried about that. There's no investigation. There's no unusual thing we're doing. We're just going through our usual post (flight) tests."

All three parachutes on the first-stage booster opened following the two-minute flight. One quickly deflated. Another deployed only part way.

The booster, in essence, was brought down by the equivalent of 1 1/2 parachutes.

Ess said the lines may be to blame, but engineers won't know for sure until the parts are inspected early next week. The recovered booster arrived back at port Friday.

The $445 million was the first step in NASA's effort to return astronauts to the moon. The White House may change direction, however, and scrap the Ares I in favor of other rockets and destinations.

Initial indications are that the rocket was "rock solid" during , with no worrisome shaking from all the thrust, Ess said. There was concern a year ago, among some, that the launch vibrations could be violent.

The definitive word, Ess said, will come once engineers get the data recorder back and conduct weeks of analysis.

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On the Net:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/aresIX

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"2 parachutes malfunctioned in NASA test flight." October 30th, 2009. http://phys.org/news176128209.html