MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Alliant Techsystems' (NYSE: ATK) first stage ignited today at 11:30 a.m., launching the Ares I-X flight test for NASA and igniting the next generation in American spaceflight. The Ares I is designed to be the safest rocket ever developed to deliver humans to space.
"The successful launch of the Ares I-X continues to demonstrate decades of flawless performance and the progress ATK and NASA have made to develop the most reliable and affordable family of solid rocket motors ever produced," said Blake Larson, ATK Space Systems president. "This flight provides critical data that can be tested only in a flight environment and will be a key building block for maturing the design of Ares I and developing Ares V."
The 177-foot-tall, 12-foot diameter first stage produced 3.3 million pounds of thrust to propel the vehicle from liftoff to stage separation 124 seconds into the flight. At 130,000 feet, the first stage parachutes deployed, enabling the spent booster to slow its descent prior to splashing down into the ocean where it will be recovered for reuse.
"This flight test is the culmination of four years of progress and is the critical first step to launching America beyond low earth orbit, signifying the beginning of a new era for the American space program," said Mike Kahn, ATK Space Systems executive vice president. "The Ares I architecture provides unmatched crew safety and performance for payload capacity, all while utilizing existing infrastructure."
The primary test objectives for the Ares I-X flight included demonstrating vehicle proof of concept, and vital flight performance early in design of the Ares I program. It also demonstrated effective vehicle integration, ground processing and launch operations.
The flight test of the Ares I-X brings America one step closer to the goals of sending humans beyond low Earth orbit for sustained exploration of multiple destinations throughout the Solar System. The launch is a critical milestone in the development of NASA's Constellation Program, which will also support missions to the International Space Station.
The Ares I-X First Stage is comprised of a four-segment Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) originally produced for the Space Shuttle Program, and newly designed hardware including the frustum, forward skirt extension, forward skirt and a simulator representing the fifth segment that will fly on the Ares I vehicle. The solid rocket motor cases used for Ares I-X have collectively flown on 30 previous shuttle missions and will continue to be reused for the Ares program. The solid rocket motors were produced at ATK's facility in Promontory, Utah, and the new hardware was manufactured by Major Tool and Machine Inc. in Indianapolis, Ind., under a contract to ATK.
ATK and NASA have continually improved their techniques and processes to increase the safety and mission reliability of the RSRMs. These motors have undergone countless subscale material characterization tests that tie together complex analyses with hard data. They have also undergone 27 full-scale ground tests, including a successful test of the Ares I first stage five-segment development motor conducted last month.
ATK is the prime contractor for the first stage five-segment solid rocket motor and provides the main abort motor and attitude control motor for Orion's Launch Abort system.
Source: ATK's First Stage Successfully Launches NASA's Ares I-X Flight Test
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