Monday, October 05, 2009

Live At KSC: NASA Starts Ares I-X Readiness Test

A critical launch readiness test of the Ares I-X rocket is getting under way at Kennedy Space Center today as NASA presses ahead with plans to roll the 33-story rocket out to its oceanside launch pad.

The 327-foot tall rocket is being prepped in High Bay No. 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building for a planned Oct. 27 launch on a mission aimed at testing the rocket's first-stage flight control system, its first stage parachute recovery system and the system designed to separate the first and second stages.

The rocket also is equipped with more than 700 sensors that will collect data on launch-induced vibration as well as the aerodynamic and thermal environments encountered during the $350 million test-flight.

The test-flight is the first in a series aimed at qualifying the Ares I rocket for flying American astronauts on missions to the International Space Station, the moon, Mars and other destinations.

Engineers today started a two-day Launch Vehicle Readiness Test that will verify vehicle systems will respond properly in the event of a pre-launch pad abort or an in-flight failure.

All mechanical and electrical systems will be checked out as engineers perform final close-outs on the vehicle this week and next week.

"They are going to work their way from the top to the bottom of the vehicle to make sure everything is ready for flight," said KSC spokeswoman Amber Philman.

Coming up this Friday: A Launch Readiness Review.

Senior managers and engineers will meet to determine whether Kennedy Space Center is ready to support an Oct. 27 test flight.

An agency-level Flight Test Readiness Review is scheduled for Oct. 23.

The Ares I-X is scheduled to roll out to launch pad 39B two weeks from today.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image (top) of the Ares I-X test vehicle stacked in High Bay No. 3 of the Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building. The 327-foot rocket is 15 stories taller than a stacked NASA space shuttle vehicle. You can also click the enlarged image to see an even bigger, more detailed view. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett. The second photo shows the Ares I-X Operations Desk in High Bay No. 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The image shows NASA's Ares I-X mission team members Bobby Williams, Trent Smith and Karl Kendall monitoring the rocket's first power-up in September. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston.

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