Friday, October 30, 2009

Ares I-X Booster Dented: This is Why They have Test Flights

"NASA: Test Rocket Damage Caused by Parachute Failure" (October 30, 2009)

"NASA engineers still aren't sure what went wrong with a pair of parachutes that failed during Wednesday's Ares I-X rocket test flight, causing damage to the spent booster when it splashed into the Atlantic Ocean harder than planned.

" 'There was an indication that we had a parachute problem,' said Ares I-X mission manager Bob Ess on Friday. 'Afterward, when we saw the parachutes we assumed, properly, that [the rocket] must have hit harder than it should have.'

"Ares I-X's first stage solid rocket booster was equipped with three giant 150-foot (46-meter) parachutes. One completely failed to deploy, while one appeared to open about half way, Ess said. The result: The booster was falling faster than expected when it hit the sea, so it buckled under the pressure and dented...."

The bad news is that not everything in the Ares I-X worked exactly the way it was expected to.

The good news is that NASA engineers have a huge volume of data - and the malfunctioning equipment - to work with as they try to figure out why only one and a half of booster's parachutes worked.

I remember the 'good old days' of the space program, when a substantial portion of the rockets blew up - either on the pad, or shortly after liftoff. The matter of a dented booster and uncooperative parachutes needs to be looked into and the problem debugged: but right now it looks like the vehicle as a whole flies the way that the mathematical models said it would.

Which is good news.


"Ares I-X damaged in splashdown, but test was a success; no oscillation"
Orlando Sentinel (October 30, 2009)

"The prototype of NASA's next rocket design sustained serious damage when its parachute recovery system failed and its first stage slammed into the Atlantic Ocean at the end of a test flight Wednesday.

"Ares I-X mission manager Bob Ess said that after the solid-fuel first stage separated from its mock upper stage, one of the rocket's three main parachutes failed completely and another failed to open fully...."

"...He [Bob Ess] said initial information showed that Ares I-X flew according to plan. He described the controllability of the rocket as “rock solid”, and said initial analysis show that the shaking of the rocket on ascent – a potential problem known as thrust oscillation – was minimal.

" 'It's only a preliminary look, but so far the oscillations look very small,' Ess said. 'There was very little there. At this point there is nothing that indicates that thrust oscillation was even a factor.'

"He said it also cleared its launch tower with minimal expected damage from the flame shooting out of the rocket...."

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