Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ares I-X Booster Test Flight: It's Kind of a Big Deal

"Liftoff! NASA Launches Moon Rocket Prototype on Test Flight" (October 28, 2009)

"A one-of-a-kind NASA rocket soared into the Florida sky Wednesday in a brief but critical test flight of a new booster slated to launch astronauts into space and, eventually, toward the moon.

"NASA's Ares I-X booster, an unmanned prototype of the planned Ares I rocket intended to carry astronauts after the space shuttle fleet retires, blasted off on an experimental mission from the seaside Launch Pad 39B here at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

" 'I can't tell you how proud I am of all of ya,' KSC director Bob Cabana told the launch team after liftoff. 'That was just unbelievable, it was spectacular. I got tears in my eyes.'

"After several false starts due to bad weather, the rocket took advantage of a brief break in the clouds to loft at 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT)...."

The Ares I-X is long and skinny, and the tallest rocket currently in use. NASA engineers were concerned about that.

It wasn't the aesthetics of the launch vehicle they were thinking of. Although mathematical models of the Ares I-X checked out for stability and being able to handle the stresses of a launch, nobody's tried to actually fly something this tall and this narrow.

This flight demonstrates that the thing will fly - and NASA collected masses of data that'll help fine-tune this launch vehicle.

The article does a pretty good job of discussing the launch and its significance. The only glitch I saw was the spelling of triboelectrification - building a static charge with friction - not "trioboelectrification," as in the article. (Details, details.)

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