MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) and NASA made history today as the Ares I-X rocket rolled to the launch pad, marking the first time in more than 25 years a new vehicle has left the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.
The Ares I-X flight test provides a unique opportunity to gather engineering data early in the design phase of the Ares program. Comprised of a four-segment solid rocket motor, simulated fifth segment, newly designed forward assembly, and a simulated upper stage, crew module and launch abort system, the Ares I-X closely matches Ares I vehicle characteristics. Each dataset that has been collected throughout the I-X program has been used to further validate models that directly benefit the Ares I design.
"Even before we launch this rocket, the Ares I-X program has been a huge success," said Mike Kahn, executive vice president, ATK Space Systems. "Through every stage of this program, we have learned valuable lessons critical to success in the development process. These solutions are already being applied to the Ares I program. The data we gain from the flight test will significantly reduce technical and schedule risks on the Ares I program."
For the past three years, ATK and NASA teams have worked on hardware and software design, integration, testing, ground processing and launch operations. The work performed on Ares I-X directly transferred valuable knowledge to the Ares I designers, helping them reduce risk and identify future requirements.
"Flying rockets is enormously complex, and the only way it comes together is by truly understanding the vehicle, its environments, and the processing and launching constraints," said Charlie Precourt, vice president and general manager of ATK Space Launch Systems. "You can model rockets and talk potential data, but you don't start to really learn and understand until you build and fly one."
The launch of Ares I-X enables an early flight test of actual systems that will be used on Ares I. The recovery system that will be used for the Ares I-X first stage is the newly developed Ares I parachute system. The guidance and navigation algorithms are the same as those that will be used for Ares I, and the forward assembly that attaches the first stage to the upper stage is prototype hardware developed for Ares I. 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.
Along with demonstrating actual Ares I systems, the vehicle is equipped with more than 700 sensors that will collect data on loads, environments, roll characteristics, vehicle guidance, navigation and control, first stage separation, and first stage re-entry in realistic flight environments.
Ares I-X and Ares I both benefit from experience from the Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM). This motor has flown and been ground tested more than 250 times, providing engineers with years of performance and post-flight data. The extremely reliable RSRM has not caused a single shuttle launch scrub or affected the launch count in the past 21 years.
"We know this motor, we know how it is going to perform and we know how it is going to respond, which is why it was chosen as the baseline for the Ares program," said Precourt. "We look forward to seeing this vehicle launch next week and adding the data collected from the flight to the tremendous amount of knowledge the team has acquired to this point."
The primary test objectives for the Ares I-X flight include demonstrating the flight control system performance during ascent, gathering information on vehicle roll characteristics and related vehicle dynamics, demonstrating first stage separation, and re-entry/recovery of the larger first stage.
ATK is the prime contractor for the Ares I-X first stage, under contract to Marshall Space Flight Center, with subcontractor United Space Alliance providing considerable engineering, hardware and assembly support. ATK is also the prime contractor for the Ares I first stage with the new five-segment solid rocket motor. The company also provides the main abort motor and attitude control motor for Orion's Launch Abort System. Both the Ares I first stage and Orion abort motor have been successfully ground tested, and further testing is planned for next year.
Source: Roll Out of Ares I-X Marks Major Milestone for ATK and NASA
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