September 10, 2009

NASA, ATK Complete First Test Of Ares I Rocket

NASA completed the first test firing of its first stage booster for the Ares I rocket on Thursday.

Flames spewed from the tail of the five-segment solid development motor 1 (DM-1) for two minutes at a facility owned by ATK Space Systems in Promontory, Utah.

The motor, which spans about the length of two school buses, was anchored to the ground horizontally. During the initial test firing, the motor produced 3.6 million pounds of thrust.

"With this test, we have taken lessons learned from many years of experience in solid rocket motor development and have built on that foundation," said Alex Priskos, first stage manager for Ares Projects at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Our team collected data from 650 sensors today to evaluate the motor's performance. This test and those that follow are essential to understanding as many aspects of our motor as possible, including strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately delivering the safest and most reliable motor possible."

The new motor is based on that of its predecessor, which is currently being employed in the space shuttle fleet. However, the new first stage motor differs from that of the four-segment shuttle booster in that it features five segments, changes in propellant grain, a larger nozzle opening and additional insulation and liner.

ATK executive vice president Mike Kahn said in a statement that the test's success is not only a presentation of the design upgrades from the space shuttle program, it also showed how well ATK and NASA were able to work together to create a satisfactory result.

"This dedicated and experienced team has sustained a rigorous and disciplined schedule to develop our next-generation crew launch vehicle - which remains within budget and on schedule - culminating four years of progress."

"This ground test provides us with valuable operational data to verify our computer models and other design points," said Kahn. "Along with data collected from the Ares I-X flight test this fall, we will further mature the first stage design."

"The infrastructure, knowledge and lessons learned that we have transferred to the Ares I first stage program will continue to ensure the success of the human spaceflight program for decades to come."

Thursday's test marks the second attempt to fire the new motor. A test was supposed to take place at the same site on August 20, but was called off with just 20 seconds remaining in the countdown sequence due to a failure in a hydraulic power unit for the rocket's nozzle.


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