Tuesday, August 31, 2010

NASA, ATK test fire Ares I booster

NASA and ATK Space Systems this morning completed what appeared to be a successful second test firing of the Ares I first-stage booster, but engineering analysis is just beginning.

At 11:27 a.m. EDT, flame blasted into a dusty Utah hillside from the five-segment solid rocket booster, sending black smoke billowing into the air as if from a volcanic eruption.

The motor, an upgraded shuttle booster that lay horizontal in a test stand, burned for about two minutes as planned. A crowd watched from a distance.

Although the Constellation program's Ares I rocket may never be built, NASA and ATK says understanding the booster's performance will be useful to designs of a heavy-lift rocket.

Officials plan a news conference to discuss the test at 12:30 EDT.

Test managers initially reported that the test bay area appeared "nominal" after the firing. A test conductor said there appeared to be some gas on the north side of the motor.

About 20 minutes after the test, an instrument room was evacuated because of indications of toxic rocket fuel in the air.

The booster had been chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit to test the solid motor's performance at low temperature.

IMAGES: Courtesy of NASA TV.

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