September 15, 2008

NASA Tests New Ares I Rocket Motor

The U.S. space agency said it has completed first-round testing of a critical motor for the new Ares I rocket.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the ullage motor tested last week is a small, solid rocket motor serving two roles during the launch of the Ares I rocket -- designed to launch astronauts into space by 2020.

"During first stage separation, which occurs 125.8 seconds into flight, the motor will fire for 4 seconds, producing the forward thrust needed to push the second, or upper, stage away from the first stage," NASA said. "This forward thrust also ensures the rocket's liquid fuel is properly pushed to the bottom of the upper stage fuel tank prior to ignition of the J-2X engine that powers the upper stage."

NASA said the word "ullage" comes from the French term "ouillage," used in winemaking to describe the space between wine and the top of a storage container. In this case, it refers to the space at the top of the first stage fuel tank and the need to push the fuel to the bottom of the tank.

The first Ares I test flight is scheduled for 2009.