EDITOR'S NOTE (September 22, 2009): NASA announced today that the launch of ARES I-X will now be targeted for October 27, 2009. A full ARES I-X Update will be posted here soon reflecting the changes to the processing timeline.
Mission: ARES I-X
Current Location: Vehicle Assembly Building, High Bay 3
Target Launch Date: October 31, 2009
Payload: Upper Stage Simulator, Crew Module/Launch Abort System Simulator
Booster Set: BI-91L (Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster)
Launch Platform: MLP-1
Launch Pad: Pad 39B
Launch Vehicle Height: 327 Feet (approximately 2 feet shorter than the operational ARES I)
Liftoff Gross Weight: 1.8 million pounds (approximately .2 million pounds lighter than ARES I)
It was a big weekend for the Ares I-X team as they started “Power On” testing of the developmental rocket which now stands in High Bay 3 of the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Initial Vehicle Power Application (IVPA) testing is a process that began on Friday and involves the incremental application of power to all of the launch vehicle’s electrical paths and circuits. During the testing, electrical paths are brought to life and then selected paths are intentionally failed in order to verify that critical vehicle systems will still have power available from redundant paths. This is the first time the new rocket has been brought to life as a single integrated system and the first time such an event has happened in the VAB since the beginning of the Space Shuttle program.
Late last month the Ares Team accomplished another important task when they conducted 3days of modal testing on the recently stacked (integrated) elements of the ARES I-X development flight test vehicle. Modal testing consisted of using hydraulic shakers to impart motions into the 327 foot tall rocket which is now mounted to its mobile launch platform by four, 3.5 inch diameter, bolts attached to flanges in the booster’s aft skirt. Data collected from the 44 accelerometers and 27,000 feet of wiring installed for the testing will allow team members to quantify how the I-X rocket will react to sway loads during rollout of the rocket to the launch pad as well as how it will withstand the Central Florida Coast winds while at the launch pad prior to liftoff. The data also measured how well the rocket and its systems will handle the vibrations encountered during the 2 minute long test flight.
Another key event took place on September 2 when the launch team, operating out of the recently upgraded Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center, conducted a launch countdown simulation. Two separate practice runs (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) of the final 2 hours of the launch countdown were performed. The simulation allowed the team to validate the recently developed countdown procedures and launch commit criteria.
At Launch Pad 39B, modifications to the former Space Shuttle launch pad are well underway and are expected to be completed in time to support an October 26/27 rollout of the Ares I-X rocket. Validation testing of the newly installed Environmental Control System (ECS) is underway and installation of the Vehicle Stabilization System (VSS) is nearly complete.
Rollout of Ares I-X to Pad 39B is expected to occur around October 26 or 27 with Launch targeted for the morning of October 31. While the typical on-pad stay (referred to as the “pad flow”) for the Space Shuttle lasts 3 to 4 weeks the Ares I program is looking to reduce that to about 1 week for the manned, operational versions. For Ares I-X, the ability to work with a much smaller launch team and an expedited processing timeline at the pad is a largely results from the fact that I-X is flying with a dummy upper stage and is not flying an active Orion Spacecraft.
Once at the Pad 39B, Ares I-X and its mobile launch platform will be “plugged in” to the ground support equipment and all of those related interfaces will be validated. Call to Stations for the start of the nearly 8 hour long launch countdown will occur late on the night of October 30.
Opening of the launch window occurs at 7:00 am on October 31st and extends for a duration of approximately 4 hours. The length of the window is mainly constrained by launch team workload and duty hours.
Full Stack Modal Testing - Completed
Power On Testing – September 11 (In Work)
Begin Launch Vehicle Closeouts – September 28
Program Level Flight Test Readiness Review – October 15
Agency Level Flight Test Readiness Review – October 23
Rollout to Pad 39B – October 26/27
L-1 Day Review – October 30
Launch – October 31
|ARES I-X Development Flight Test Vehicle, Image Courtesy: NASA
FLIGHT TEST OBJECTIVES:
- Demonstrate flight control system performance during first stage ascent
- Assess roll torque due to first stage motor burn characteristics and performance
- Characterize first and second stage separation dynamics
- Evaluate booster parachute recovery system
- Develop and Validate processing, integration, launch and recovery operations
FLIGHT PROFILE SUMMARY:
Liftoff: Standing approximately 327 feet tall and weighing nearly 1.8 million pounds, the ARES I-X Launch vehicle will begin to rise vertically until clear of the launch umbilical tower (modified space shuttle fixed service structure). Provisions for lateral movement (yaw) away from the launch tower are included in the guidance software.
Tower Clear: Once the rocket has cleared the launch umbilical tower/fixed service structure (LUT/FSS) it will begin a 90 degree roll and pitch over maneuver.
Roll and Pitch Program: For ARES I-X, the 90 degree roll is necessitated by the pre-launch orientation of the launch vehicle atop the mobile launch platform. ARES I-X is using the same hold-down posts used for the Space Shuttle’s left SRB (solid rocket booster). This results in the Z-axis of the I-X vehicle pointing south (i.e. crew heads and windows are facing south). Rolling 90 degrees after liftoff will orient the aerodynamic protuberances (such as the systems tunnel and booster sep motors), and exhaust nozzle actuators of the ARES I-X flight test vehicles in the same manner as is planned for an operational ARES I launch which will start with the Z-axis pointing east. In other words the 90 degree roll will give the ARES I-X a similar “angle of attack” (alpha) profile to that of an operational ARES I.
PTIs: Programmed Test Inputs (or PTIs) will be used during the ascent to assess and characterize roll torque and roll control system performance. The PTIs will consist of a combination of pitch and yaw inputs and periods of RoCS blackouts (i.e. Roll Control System thruster firings will be temporarily inhibited).
- SEP Sequence Initiated – When the measured acceleration of the launch vehicle reaches the point where its total thrust is less than 40,000 pounds, the stage separation sequence will begin. Staging events for the ARES I-X occur in a slightly different manner and location (i.e. different separation plane) than on an operational ARES I. Staging occurs at just over 2 minutes after liftoff at an altitude of approximately 130,000 feet and a velocity of about MACH 4.7 – this is slightly earlier, slower, and lower than what is planned for operational ARES I launches.
- LSC Fires – A Linear Shaped Charge (LSC) will fire around the circumference of the vehicle between the Frustum and the Booster’s Forward Skirt Extension. Physical separation on an operational ARES I will occur in a different location. For an operational ARES I separation the LSC will be located between the Upper Stage Aft Skirt and the Interstage.
- BDMs Fire – Four pairs of Booster Deceleration Motors (BDMs) located on the Aft Skirt of the Booster will fire to decelerate the First Stage Booster and help physically clear it from the Upper Stage.
- BTMs Fire – About 3 seconds after the BDMs fire the Booster Tumble Motors (BTMs) will fire to initiate a rotation of the First Stage Booster.
First Stage Booster Descent: Approximately 270 seconds after separation the Recovery Chute Deployment sequence will begin. A small pilot and drogue chute will deploy from the Forward Skirt Extension to help stabilize the booster for the deployment of the Main Parachute Support System (MPSS) a few seconds later. Located in the Forward Skirt, the three MPSS parachutes are larger, modified versions, of the Space Shuttle Booster Parachutes. Since the ARES I uses a 5 segment Solid Rocket Motor (as opposed to the standard 4 segment motors used for the Space Shuttle) it has more mass and requires a larger parachute for descent. Following the deployment of the chutes the First Stage will descend into the Atlantic Ocean where it will be recovered and transported back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for evaluation and processing.
Upper Stage Uncontrolled Descent: After first stage separation, the Upper Stage, Crew Module, and Launch Abort System simulators will continue on a ballistic trajectory that will peak at about 150,000 feet. Following an “uncontrolled descent”, the entire integrated stack will impact in the Atlantic approximately 125 nautical miles (~ 144 statute miles) down range of the Kennedy Space Center.
|ARES I-X Mission Profile, Image Courtesy: NASA
Checkout these images from our friends at i-ota (nasatech.net) of the fully stacked ARES I-X. (please allow time for color image to load: Use left mouse button to move, Use right mouse button, mouse wheel or Ctrl/Shift keys to zoom.)
Click Here And Click Here