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  Ares I-X: Assembly updates and photographs (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Ares I-X: Assembly updates and photographs
Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-02-2008 06:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Debuts Website for First Ares Test Flight

NASA is developing new spacecraft, the Ares rockets and Orion crew capsule, to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station and send them on their way to the moon. The first test flight of the spacecraft, known as Ares I-X, is scheduled to launch in spring 2009. The latest information about this launch is now available at NASA's website.

The website was created to offer key information about the details and objectives of the Ares I-X test flight. The site features articles, images and videos that outline the objectives of the Ares I-X test flight and explain how these objectives will influence the design and flight of the Ares I rocket and Orion crew capsule.

The Ares I-X flight will test hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I rocket. It also will provide critical data during ascent of the integrated Orion crew exploration vehicle and the Ares I launch vehicle stack -- data that will be used to design a vehicle system that is safe and fully operational before astronauts begin traveling into orbit.

The Ares I-X test flight will bring America one step closer to a return to the moon by 2020 and eventual trips to Mars and destinations beyond.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-07-2008 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the aft skirt for the Ares 1-X rocket was lowered July 1 onto another stand.

The segment was moved onto a machine shop work stand for drilling modifications, preparing it for the installation of the auxiliary power unit controller, the reduced-rate gyro unit, the booster decelerator motors and the booster tumble motors.

In August 2007, NASA provided the media an opportunity to see this aft skirt as it was being prepared for its 2009 flight. As part of the tour, we had the chance to step into the skirt, as the latter two photographs illustrate. Click on the photographs to enlarge.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-27-2008 11:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a new video introduction to the Ares I-X test flight:

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-23-2008 10:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) release
Ares I-X Segments Travel the Nation's Mighty Rivers

Mark Twain had a great imagination, but he never pictured the kind of cargo ready to journey down his beloved Mississippi River. Deep in the cargo bay of a massive ship sit 12 rocket parts whose launch will bring NASA one step closer to its exploration goals to return to the moon for exploration of the lunar surface and then to travel to Mars and destinations beyond.

Engineers and technicians at NASA's Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, spent the last two years designing and building the upper stage simulator of the Ares I-X test rocket. Bound for NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the parts will take a 12-day journey down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico, arriving at Port Canaveral in Florida where they will be assembled and sent on a test launch in 2009.

For two years, NASA Glenn project managers examined many transportation options because of the sheer size of the parts.

"This is the first time we have ever shipped cargo of this magnitude. These major rivers provide ports deep enough to accommodate a ship and safe routes to reach Kennedy," said Jeanine Hanzel, logistics manager.

During a two-day period, 12 tractor-trailer rigs arrived at Glenn in Cleveland to load the 11 steel cylinders that are 18 feet wide and just under 10 feet tall, each weighing between 24,000 and 60,000 pounds.

After all parts were secured, the wide-load caravan traveled to Wellsville, a shipping port on the eastern Ohio River.

A massive crane carefully loaded the segments on the Delta Mariner, a ship the length of a football field that is designed to navigate both river and ocean routes. In an effort to monitor any stress during transportation, each segment was fitted with data loggers to measure temperature, humidity and pressure.

"The data will be collected when it arrives in Florida to determine if adverse conditions were encountered that would affect the segments during the trip," said Jack Lekan, ground systems lead.

While the massive steel parts look like hollow cans, the fabrication of each segment was anything but simple. The manufacturing required a water jet, three times faster than the speed of sound, to cut the carbonized steel. Then each segment had to be rolled precisely into a perfect shape. Welding was meticulously executed, with each weld undergoing ultrasonic and radiographic testing.

"We had to prove the welds could bear the weight under launch," said Therese Griebel, chief of manufacturing at Glenn.

The parts will be assembled in Florida as a simulator for the upper stage of the Ares rocket and tested during a launch scheduled for 2009.

Earlier: Ares I-X upper stage simulator at NASA GRC

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-24-2008 12:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Ares I-X upper stage segments' ballast assemblies arrived at Kennedy Space Center on October 17 and were positioned along the floor of high bay 4 in the Vehicle Assembly Building.

These ballast assemblies will be installed in the upper stage 1 and 7 segments and will mimic the mass of the fuel. Their total weight is approximately 160,000 pounds.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-29-2008 03:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Recent Langley Research Center photos:

Langley engineer Tom Ivanco inspects part of the launch tower between scale model tests of NASA's Ares I-X rocket in the Langley Transonic Dynamics Tunnel.

The tests are helping demonstrate that the full-scale Ares I-X will be stabile in high winds as it sits on the modified Space Shuttle launch pad at Kennedy Space Center next year.

As pictured, fabrication of a simulated crew module and associated launch abort system are underway.

The completed components, which represent the tip of NASA's new rocket, will be delivered to Kennedy Space Center for the first in a series of flight tests beginning in the spring of 2009.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-04-2008 12:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
First Rocket Parts Of New Launch System Arrive In Florida

The first major flight hardware of the Ares I-X rocket has arrived in Florida to begin preparation for the inaugural test flight of the agency's next-generation launch system. The test flight is targeted for July 12, 2009.

The Ares I-X upper stage simulator traveled to Port Canaveral aboard the Delta Mariner, a ship that also transports the Delta IV rocket for United Launch Alliance. The journey began Oct. 22 on the Ohio River as the barge traveled toward the Mississippi River for its voyage to Port Canaveral. By Nov. 6, the flight hardware will have been moved off the barge into high bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The upper stage simulator consists of 11 individual components that were designed and manufactured during a two-year period at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The components represent the size, outer shape and weight of the second stage of the Ares I rocket, and will be integrated together in the Vehicle Assembly Building. The upper stage simulator eventually will be stacked atop the solid rocket booster segments of the Ares I-X rocket.

The Ares I-X test flight will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I crew launch vehicle. It also will allow NASA to gather critical data during ascent of the integrated Orion crew exploration vehicle and the Ares I rocket. The data will ensure the entire vehicle system is safe and fully operational before astronauts begin traveling to orbit.

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NASA release
NASA Receives First Stage Rocket Hardware for Ares I-X Test Flight

NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida welcomed the arrival Nov. 10 of important hardware for the Ares I-X rocket's upcoming test flight.

Called the forward skirt, the component is part of the rocket's first stage. The Ares I-X launch will be the first test flight for NASA's next crew launch vehicle. The launch is targeted for July 2009 from Kennedy and will provide an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I rocket.

The forward skirt began its trip Nov. 7 from Major Tool & Machine Inc. of Indiana, a subcontractor to Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, of Utah. ATK is the prime contractor for the first stage of the Ares I rocket.

The rocket's first stage provides the primary propulsion -- 2.6 million pounds of thrust -- for the vehicle from liftoff to stage separation, which occurs 120 seconds into the flight. Part of the first stage, the nearly 14,000-pound forward skirt is constructed entirely of armored steel and stands seven feet tall and 12 1/4 feet wide. The main deceleration parachutes that slow the return of the rocket's boosters to Earth after launch are attached to this hardware. The forward skirt was designed as an empty, buoyant space to be used as ballast, keeping the first stage afloat for recovery.

"We could not be more pleased that the vehicle first stage hardware is beginning to arrive," said Pepper Phillips, director of the Constellation Project Office at Kennedy. "This is one of many major milestones and is a testament to the tremendous NASA and contractor team working together to ensure a successful test flight for the new program."

The upper stage simulator was the first major piece of the Ares I-X rocket to arrive at Kennedy on Nov. 4. During the next few months, all of the additional hardware needed to complete the test vehicle will be delivered to Kennedy, beginning with a piece that simulates a fifth segment for the four-segment solid rocket booster and concluding with delivery of the complete motor set in January 2009.

United Space Alliance of Florida, under a subcontract to ATK, will complete the integration and assembly of the forward skirt in Kennedy's Assembly and Refurbishment Facility. The hardware then will be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking operations in high bay 3 during the spring of 2009.

"The forward skirt has 12 parachute brackets, with each bracket restraining two parachute spools," said Bob Herman, ATK's Florida site director. "For the Ares I-X launch, six of these spools will be used to measure parachute loads passed on to the forward skirt. ATK is proud to play a critical role in helping NASA achieve its vision to return to the moon."

The rocket's deceleration subsystem includes the pilot, drogue and main parachutes. The pilot parachute is deployed at an altitude of 16,210 feet and pulls out the drogue parachute. When the drogue parachute opens, it slows the vehicle and orients it to descend tail first. The main parachutes are deployed as the forward skirt extension separates from the forward skirt. They are used to slow the final decent of the first stage to 48 mph, allowing a safe impact with the water.

The Ares I-X rocket is a combination of existing and simulator hardware that will resemble the Ares I crew launch vehicle in size, shape and weight. It will provide valuable data to guide the final design of the Ares I, which will launch astronauts in the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The test flight also will bring NASA one step closer to its exploration goals of returning humans to the moon for sustained exploration of the lunar surface and missions to destinations beyond.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the first stage for the Ares I-X project, which is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Robert Pearlman
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While at Kennedy Space Center for the STS-126 launch, NASA provided the media an opportunity to tour High Bay 4 in the Vehicle Assembly Building where the components for the Ares I-X upper stage simulator are coming together.

These "tuna can" sections will be stacked inside the bay to form five "super segments" before being hoisted across the transfer aisle to be mated with the first stage.

It is through the door in this segment that engineers will access the inside of the upper stage simulator during assembly and check-out.

The press also visited the Young-Crippen Firing Room in the Launch Control Center where the Ares I-X launch will be overseen. Ares I-X will require only 36 people (as compared to over 200 for a shuttle launch). Ares I is expected to need just 100 flight controllers.

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posted 12-07-2008 11:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Stacking of the Ares I-X upper stage simulator segments began December 4 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building's high bay 4. In front at left (with the U.S. flag) is segment 6. Next to and behind it are the mated segments 3 (on top, with Ares logo) and 2 (with Ares I-X insignia).

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In the Parachute Refurbishment Facility at Kennedy Space Center, the parachutes are packed for the Ares I-X development flight in July 2009.

Robert Pearlman
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Pieces Coming Together for First Test Launch of NASA's New Spacecraft

NASA is using powerful computers and software programs to design the rocket that will carry crew and cargo to space after the space shuttle retires. But those computers will have their work checked the old-fashioned way with the first of several uncrewed demonstration launches beginning in 2009.

Ares I-X, the first Ares I test rocket, will lift off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. in the summer of 2009. It will climb about 25 miles (40.2 km) in a two-minute powered test of Ares I first stage performance and its first stage separation and parachute recovery system.

A less obvious -- but no less critical -- test will be of overall vehicle aerodynamics. Is the design safe and stable in flight? This is a question that must be answered before astronauts begin traveling into orbit and beyond.

With that question answered, the flight of Ares I-X will be an important step toward verifying analysis tools and techniques needed to further develop Ares I, NASA's next launch vehicle.

In order to ensure that the rocket's flight characteristics are fully understood, extreme care is being taken to precisely fabricate the rocket's simulated upper stage and the simulated Orion crew module and associated launch abort tower. These full-scale hardware components must accurately reflect the shape and physical properties of the models used in computer analyses and wind tunnel tests in order to confidently compare flight results with preflight predictions.

At NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., where the Orion crew module and tower-like launch abort system simulators are taking shape, researchers and managers are working to overcome multiple challenges.

"We are a highly matrixed team -- a lot of people from various organizations -- that must work together successfully on a tight schedule," explained Kevin Brown, project manager for the Ares I-X Crew Module/Launch Abort System (CM/LAS) project.

"We have a team doing fabrication and assembly work in conjunction with an off-site contractor, and we have another team readying to install about 150 sensors once the crew module and launch abort tower are completed," he added.

The simulated crew module, faithful to the vehicle that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station by 2015, to the moon in the 2020 timeframe and ultimately to points beyond, will measure approximately five meters (16.4 ft) in diameter. While the conical module will have the same basic shape as the Apollo Command Module, it will be significantly larger. The simulated launch abort system, positioned above the crew module at launch, will add another 46 feet (14 m) in length to the combined simulator.

The sensors will measure aerodynamic pressure and temperature at the nose of the rocket, and contribute to measurements of vehicle acceleration and angle of attack. How the tip of the rocket slices through the atmosphere is important because that determines the flow of air over the entire vehicle.

"This launch will tell us what we got right and what we got wrong in the design and analysis phase," said Jonathan Cruz, deputy project manager for Ares I-X CM/LAS. "We have a lot of confidence, but we need those two minutes of flight data before NASA can continue to the next phase of rocket development," he said.

The completed two-part flight test article is to be delivered to Kennedy in early 2009. Before launch, the combined crew module and launch abort system tower will be used to help demonstrate lifting, handling and stacking of Ares I-X flight test vehicle elements.

Ares I-X will provide important data for developing Ares I in time to support the vehicle's critical design review in 2010.

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The full scale crew module and launch abort system simulators for the Ares I-X test flight arrived at Kennedy Space Center on January 28 aboard a C-5 aircraft.
Meanwhile, inside the Vehicle Assembly Building's high bay 4, assembly of the upper stage simulator continues, with the installation of ballast mimicking the mass of fuel.

Robert Pearlman
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In high bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the newly arrived simulator crew module for the Ares I-X rocket is lowered onto a work stand.
The Ares I-X roll control system module is designed to perform a 90-degree roll after the rocket clears the launch tower, preventing a roll during flight and maintaining the orientation of the rocket until separation of the upper and first stages. Part of the upper stage simulator, the system module is composed to two modules and four thrusters. The system module will return to earth and splash down; it will not be recovered.
The lifting fixture nicknamed the "Birdcage" is lifted by a crane to test the load capability. The Birdcage will be used to lift the crew module and launch abort system assembly for the Ares I-X rocket and to stack and de-stack the assembly from the service module/spacecraft adapter assembly. It will also have the ability to lift and to stack and de-stack Stack-5 (all of the above components) from the Ares I-X in the Vehicle Assembly Building.

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In high bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building, workers position the Ares I-X crew module mockup onto a mockup of the service module during a fit check of the hardware.

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NASA release
Segment of Ares I-X Test Rocket Arrives at Kennedy

The last newly manufactured section of the Ares I-X test rocket arrived at the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility of NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

Called the frustum, the section resembles a giant funnel. Its function is to transition the primary flight loads from the rocket's upper stage to the first stage. The frustum is located between the forward skirt extension and the upper stage of the Ares I-X.

“It is always great to get the hardware to the launch site, and once the motors arrive in just a few weeks, the entire launch vehicle can begin final processing prior to stacking operations in the Vehicle Assembly Building,” said Jon Cowart, the Ares I-X deputy mission manager at Kennedy.

The Ares I-X is targeted to launch in the summer of 2009. The flight will provide NASA with an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I launch vehicle. The flight test also will bring NASA a step closer to its exploration goals of sending humans to the moon and destinations beyond.

The frustum is manufactured by Major Tool and Machine Inc. in Indiana under a subcontract with Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, the Ares first stage prime contractor. Weighing in at approximately 13,000 pounds, the 10-foot-long section is composed of two aluminum rings attached to a truncated conic section. The large diameter of the cone is 18 feet and the small diameter is 12 feet. The cone is 1.25 inches thick.

“We are thrilled to deliver this final segment to the ground processing team at Kennedy,” said Bob Herman, ATK’s Florida site director. “The arrival of the frustum is a significant milestone.

Much rigorous design, development and testing had to be accomplished prior to manufacturing all of the new segments that make up the Ares I-X first stage.”

The frustum will be integrated with the forward skirt and forward skirt extension, which already are in the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility. That will complete the forward assembly. The assembly then will be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking operations, which are scheduled to begin in April.

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NASA release
Final Piece Of Next-Generation Rocket Heads To Launch Site

The final pieces of the Ares I-X flight test rocket left the Alliant Tech Systems manufacturing facility in Promontory, Utah, Thursday and began a 2,917-mile journey to its launch site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first stage motor segments are the last shipment of Ares I-X major hardware elements. The hardware will arrive in Florida later this month and undergo final processing and preparations before being stacked with the other portions of the rocket.

"This shipment means great things for the Ares I-X mission," said Ares I-X Deputy Mission Manager, Steve Davis. "It's wonderful to see the next generation of American spaceflight continue to take shape. The excitement is really building now as we start stacking the pieces and preparing for launch later this year."

The Ares I-X will be the first flight test for the Ares I rocket; the agency's next-generation spacecraft and crew launch vehicle system. The flight will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, analysis models, facilities and ground operations associated with Ares I.

The Ares I-X rocket is a combination of existing and simulator hardware that will resemble the Ares I rocket in size, shape and weight. It will provide valuable data to guide the final design of the Ares I. The test flight also will bring NASA one step closer to its goals of returning to the moon, and traveling to destinations beyond. The Ares I-X launch is scheduled later in 2009.

The Ares I-X first stage uses a four-segment solid rocket motor, capable of generating 3.3 million pounds of thrust. The motor provides the primary propulsion for the vehicle from liftoff to stage separation 120 seconds into the flight. The motor segments were taken from the existing space shuttle solid rocket booster inventory for the flight test. The booster used for the Ares I-X flight test is being modified to meet Ares needs by adding new forward structures and a fifth segment simulator to better replicate the size and shape of the Ares I crew launch vehicle.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the first stage project for the Ares I-X mission, located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Robert Pearlman
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A few photos of Ares I-X components inside the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility at Kennedy Space Center (click to enlarge).

Ares I-X Frustrum

Ares I-X Forward Skirt Extension Section

Ares I-X Forward Skirt

Ares I-X Aft Skirt

Robert Pearlman
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A couple of photos of Ares I-X components inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (click to enlarge).

Upper stage simulator and mockup launch escape tower

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NASA release
Final Hardware For Test Of New Rocket Arrives In Florida

After a seven-day, 2,917-mile journey, a train carrying the four motor segments for the Ares I-X rocket arrived Thursday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The motor is the final hardware needed for the rocket's upcoming test flight this summer.

The test flight will provide NASA an early opportunity to check and prove hardware, analysis and modeling methods, and facilities and ground operations needed to develop the Ares I, which is NASA's next crew launch vehicle. The test also will allow NASA to gather critical data during the ascent of the integrated stack, which will help inform the design of the Ares I rocket and the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The data will ensure the entire vehicle system is safe and fully operational before astronauts begin traveling in it to the International Space Station and moon.

The reusable segments departed March 13 from Promontory, Utah, where Ares I first stage prime contractor Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, manufactured them.

"We have achieved a tremendous milestone with the arrival of the segments," said Bob Ess, mission manager for Ares I-X at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "For NASA personnel and contractor teams throughout the country, this is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication."

The Ares I-X first stage uses a four-segment solid rocket motor capable of generating 3.3 million pounds of thrust. The motor provides the primary propulsion for the vehicle from liftoff to stage separation 120 seconds into the flight.

The motor segments for the flight test were taken from the existing space shuttle solid rocket booster inventory. The booster used for the Ares I-X launch is being modified by adding new forward structures and a fifth segment simulator. These modifications help NASA better replicate the size and shape of the five-segment booster that will be used for the Ares I crew launch vehicle.

"As we move toward a flight this summer, it is exciting to see the final hardware arrive at the launch site," said Bob Herman, ATK's Florida site director. "We are honored to play an important role in helping NASA achieve its exploration goals."

Having arrived at Kennedy, the segments now will be transferred to the center's Rotation Processing and Surge facility for final processing and integration. The stacking operations are scheduled to begin in the Vehicle Assembly Building in April.

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NASA's Kennedy Space Center hosted a ceremony on March 25 to mark the handover of the Mobile Launcher Platform 1 from NASA's shuttle to Constellation program.

Constructed in 1964, the mobile launchers (ML) used in Apollo/Saturn operations were modified for use by the shuttle. With their umbilical towers and swing arms removed, the ML were redesignated as Mobile Launcher Platforms (MLP). During Apollo, MLP-1 was known as ML-3.

Beginning with Apollo 10 in 1969 through STS-119, which launched earlier this month, ML-3 supported five Saturn V rockets (Apollos 10, 13, 15, 16, 17), followed by 52 space shuttle missions as MLP-1 (including STS-1 through STS-5).

With Wednesday's handover, the two-story steel structure will be modified for Ares I-X, the first test flight for NASA's next-generation launch vehicle, launching in July.

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NASA blog by Dan Kanigan
Aft Skirt Hot Fire Test... Check!

Today, Ares I-X passed another significant milestone when engineers and technicians successfully completed a hot fire test of the hardware at the Aft Skirt Test Facility at Kennedy Space Center.

The hot fire test is actually a series of tests performed on the Aft Skirt - primarily the Thrust Vector Control (TVC) System. Before the test, the fuel systems are checked for leaks and filled with hydrazine (rocket fuel). The hot fire is a two-minute run of the Auxiliary Power Units (APU) using the hydrazine just as it would on launch day. The electro hydraulic servo-actuators, which control the direction the nozzle is pointing, are commanded to move to various positions to make sure they respond properly to commands. Additionally, the power units are run at 100%, 110% and 112% of capacity to assure that all redundancy modes are working properly.

When the test has been successfully completed the hydraulic systems are left as they are and the hydrazine is taken out. The system will stay in that condition until the Ares I-X vehicle is at the launch pad where the system will be refueled with hydrazine in preparation for launch.

With this milestone complete, the aft skirt will be transferred to the Rotation Processing and Surge Facility next month and attached to the aft motor segment. When attached, these two pieces of hardware make up the aft assembly and will be the first hardware to be stacked on the Mobile Launcher Platform in the Vehicle Assembly Building when that process begins in June.

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NASA update:
The second of two roll control system modules for the Ares I-X was installed April 29 into the rocket's interstage. The work took place inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The system is designed to perform a 90-degree roll after the rocket clears the launch tower, preventing a roll during flight and maintaining the orientation of the rocket until separation of the upper and first stages. Part of the upper stage simulator, the system is composed of two modules and four thrusters.

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NASA release
NASA's Ares I-X Rocket Achieves Historic Hardware Milestones

NASA's Constellation Program reached two major processing milestones this week as two new pieces of Ares I-X hardware were transferred for final assembly in preparation for the first flight test of the rocket later this summer at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Once stacking operations begin later this month, it will be the first time a new vehicle has been stacked on NASA's Mobile Launch Platform in more than 25 years.

The forward assembly, composed of the forward skirt, forward skirt extension and the frustum, was moved Thursday from Kennedy's Assembly Refurbishment Facility, or ARF, to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking operations.

The aft skirt was moved Monday from the ARF to the Rotation Processing and Surge Facility to be attached to the aft motor segment, forming the aft assembly. The assembly will next move to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking on the Mobile Launcher Platform.

The Ares I-X rocket is a combination of existing and simulator hardware that will resemble the Ares I crew launch vehicle in size, shape and weight. It will provide valuable flight data to guide the final design of the Ares I, which will launch astronauts in the Orion crew exploration vehicle.

"This is a very exciting week for the team to have the hardware moving out of the ARF, showing how much progress we've made and that we are that much closer to launch," said NASA Ares I-X mission manager Bob Ess of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The flight test of the Ares I-X will bring NASA one-step closer to its Constellation Program's exploration goals of returning humans to the moon for sustained exploration of the lunar surface and missions to destinations beyond.

The forward assembly connects the 12-foot diameter first stage motor to the 18-foot diameter upper stage simulator. Weighing more than 40,000 pounds, the assembly houses three newly designed descent parachutes for first stage recovery.

The aft skirt, which is used at the bottom of the Solid Rocket Boosters for the Space Shuttle Program, was modified over the last year and a half for use on Ares I-X. Some modifications include adding deceleration and tumble motors, avionics and a controller for the auxiliary power unit.

"This week is the culmination of tremendous hard work and dedication by the entire NASA and contractor team," said Joe Oliva, first stage program manager for the Ares I-X at ATK Space Systems in Salt Lake City. "These milestones are leading us to a flight test later this year that will provide our proof of concept data for NASA's next generation of launch vehicles."

United Space Alliance, of Houston, under a subcontract to ATK completed the processing and integration of the forward assembly and aft skirt. ATK is NASA's prime contractor for the first stage of the Ares I rocket.

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Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

In the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 7, segments of the Ares I-X first stage were mated to the fifth simulator segment, completing Super Stack 1. The super stack comprises the forward skirt, forward skirt extension, interstages 1 and 2 and the fifth segment simulator.

Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
On July 8, the Ares I-X aft booster segment with the aft skirt was lowered onto the mobile launch platform in High Bay 1. This was the start of the buildup of the Ares I-X launch vehicle.

Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
The Ares I-X aft center booster segment arrived in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 9.

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Photo credit: NASA
The Ares I-X aft center booster segment is now stacked atop the aft segment on the mobile launch platform.

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Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
On July 17, workers secured the Ares I-X forward segment to the forward center segment atop the aft assembly (aft segment and aft skirt).

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Photo credit: NASA
On July 29, the first Ares I-X upper stage "super stack" was mated to the forward motor segment atop the mobile launch platform.

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Photo credit: NASA/Tim Jacobs
On August 4, the second Ares I-X upper stage "super stack" was mated to Super Stack 1. The vehicle is now the largest assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building since 1975.

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Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
On August 7, the Ares I-X Super Stack 3 was lowered onto Super Stack 2 for integration.

Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

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Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
On August 12, the Ares I-X Super Stack 4 was lowered onto Super Stack 3 for integration. With only the simulated capsule and escape tower to be added, Ares I-X is 57 feet away from being 327 feet tall.

Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

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NASA release
NASA Completes Assembly of Ares I-X Test Rocket

For the first time in more than a quarter-century a new space vehicle stands ready in NASA's Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building. The Ares I-X rocket, its simulated crew module and launch abort system are assembled on a mobile launch platform at Kennedy in preparation for launch this fall.

The final segments of the Ares I-X were stacked on Aug. 13, completing the 327-foot launch vehicle and providing the first look at the finished rocket's distinctive shape. The Ares I-X flight test is targeted for Oct. 31.

"More than three years of hard work with the NASA and contractor team has brought us to this historic moment," said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager. "This flight test is a critical step in continuing our design process for the Ares vehicle and the first flight for the Constellation Program."

The Ares I-X is wired with more than 700 sensors to gather data during the two-and-a-half minute flight test. The launch will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I crew launch vehicle. The data collected during the launch will allow NASA to gather critical data during ascent of the integrated Orion spacecraft and the Ares I rocket.

Now that the Ares I-X is assembled, numerous evaluations will be run on all the rocket systems, including complex instruments that will constantly measure the vehicle's movements as it launches and the first stage separates. The evaluations include a process called "modal testing," which will shake the stack slightly to test stiffness of the rocket, including the pinned and bolted joints.


Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
On August 13, in the Vehicle Assembly Building's High Bay 3, the yellow framework, nicknamed the "birdcage," lifted Super Stack 5 atop Super Stack 4. Once in position, the assembly of the Ares I-X rocket was complete.


Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

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Photographs of Ares I-X taken Sunday, August 23, 2009:


Photo credit: collectSPACE.com

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NASA Ares I-X status update:
Last week's milestones include:
  • Modal testing of the flight test vehicle complete
  • A series of sensors strategically located throughout the stack will measure the amount and direction of movement, as the electro-mechanical shakers impose random loads to determine the rocket segment's first several bending modes
  • Development flight instrumentation testing is now complete
This week's milestones include:
  • Launch Team simulation from the firing room
  • First vehicle power up
Upcoming milestones:
  • Installation of the Vehicle Stabilization System
Ares I-X Ground Support Equipment
  • At Launch Pad 39B, modifications are ongoing
Previous status reports are available here.

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NASA Kennedy Space Center release
NASA Brings the Ares I-X Flight Test Rocket to Life

The Ares I-X team at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida has reached a significant milestone with the first electrical power-up of the test rocket on Sept. 11. Ares I-X and its simulated crew module and launch abort system are assembled on a mobile launcher platform at Kennedy in preparation for its targeted Oct. 31 flight test.

Power-up is the first application of power to all of the electronics boxes, including avionics, sensors and thrust vector control system, since the rocket segments arrived and were stacked at Kennedy. Testing ran for three days and concluded Sept. 14. The boxes were all powered up individually in Denver, but had not been tested since installation in the rocket with actual flight cabling.

"Powering up a new vehicle and having all of the systems 'talking' to each other is always a challenge. The power-up was a tremendous success, with all of the systems functioning nominally," said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager.

The Ares I-X is wired with more than 700 sensors to gather data during the two-and-a-half minute flight test. The launch will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations. The data collected during the launch will allow NASA to gather critical data for Ares I and future launch vehicles.


Credit: NASA TV
In the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a time lapse camera documented the buildup of the Ares I-X flight test rocket. The first video was on Nov. 3, 2008 and the final video was on Aug. 30, 2009.

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NASA release
NASA Sets Target Date for Ares I-X Rocket's Test Launch

NASA is targeting Tuesday, October 27, for the flight test of the Ares I-X rocket, pending successful testing and data verification. Senior managers made the decision after a meeting Monday at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The October 27 target date has been confirmed with the Air Force's Eastern Range. The launch window will extend from 8 a.m. to noon EDT. There is another launch opportunity on October 28. The date will be finalized at a Flight Test Readiness Review scheduled for October 23 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Technicians at Kennedy have completed the stacking, or assembly, of the rocket on a mobile launch platform.

This week, Ares I-X team members are conducting a launch countdown simulation and conducting final checks of the rocket's systems. The checks will begin with the launch abort system simulator atop the rocket and continue down to its aft skirt. The rocket is targeted to roll out to Kennedy's Launch Pad 39B on October 19.

The launch will provide NASA with an opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations, while gathering critical data for the Ares I rocket and future launch vehicles.

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Upcoming key milestones:
  • Oct. 09 - Launch Readiness Review at Kennedy
  • Oct. 15 - Pad 39B modifications media event at 10 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 19 - Rollout to Pad 39B targeted for 12:01 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 21 - Satellite live shot campaign at Pad 39B from 6-9 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 23 - L-4 Flight Test Readiness Review followed by news conference
  • Oct. 24 - L-3 Launch Status briefing on NASA TV at 10 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 25 - L-2 Launch Status Briefing at 10 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 26 - Prelaunch News Conference at 1 p.m. EDT
  • Oct. 27 - Ares I-X flight test launch at 8 a.m. EDT (target)
Ares I-X Flight Hardware

Last week's milestones include:

  • Launch Team countdown simulation from the firing room
  • Full-up Development Flight Instrumentation system testing
  • Flight control actuator testing
This week's milestones include:
  • Powered up testing continues
  • Launch Vehicle Readiness Test
    Tests the rocket's systems to assure responds correctly to both pre-launch aborts and in-flight failures
  • Super Stack 5 closeouts
Upcoming milestones:
  • Launch pad readiness review
Ares I-X Ground Support Equipment
  • At Launch Pad 39B, modifications are ongoing
  • Vehicle Stabilization System final checkouts
  • Environmental Control System (ECS) validation testing
  • Fixed Service and Rotating Service Structures walk downs

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Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson
Steep ladders mounted to opposing sides of the interior wall of the upper stage simulator of the Ares I-X rocket provide the only access inside the vehicle for the installation of instruments and equipment.

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Upcoming key milestones:
  • No earlier than Oct. 20 - Rollout to Pad 39B targeted for 12:01 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 23 - L-4 Flight Test Readiness Review
  • Oct. 24 - L-3 Media briefing at 10 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 25 - L-2 Launch Status Briefing at 10 a.m. EDT
  • Oct. 26 - Prelaunch News Conference at 1 p.m. EDT
  • Oct. 27 (target) - Ares I-X flight test launch at 8 a.m. EDT
Ares I-X Flight Hardware
  • The rollout of the Ares I-X flight test vehicle scheduled for Monday, Oct. 19, is being rescheduled by at least 24 hours. This will allow time for the launch team to remove and replace a hydraulic accumulator.

  • During testing late on Oct. 14, hydraulics engineers detected a gaseous nitrogen leak in the accumulator, which is located in the aft skirt of the rocket. The pressurized nitrogen is leaking past a seal and into the area of the accumulator containing hydraulic fluid. The accumulator absorbs hydraulic pressure spikes as the system operates. The accumulator is being removed and replaced today, and the retest will begin on Friday.

  • The same problem has occurred in the past on space shuttle flight hardware, most recently on STS-117 in March 2007.

  • What effect this will have on the Ares I-X targeted Oct. 27 launch date, if any, is being assessed by management and will be based on when the rollout is finally scheduled to occur.
This week's milestones include:
  • Upper Stage, Interstage, Frustrum and RoCS closeouts for flight are complete, and the installation of the flight door is in work
  • Power up testing is in work
  • First Stage closeouts continue
Ares I-X Ground Support Equipment
  • At Launch Pad 39B, modifications are complete

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NASA/Jack Pfaller
An access platform and vent line have been installed on the 255-foot level of Pad 39B to support Ares I-X. Below it on the 235-foot level is the vehicle stabilization system.

NASA/Jack Pfaller
A vehicle stabilization system has been installed on the 235-foot level of Pad 39B to support the Ares I-X rocket.


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