Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two On The Pad


Special thanks to veteran reader Craig Young From NASA Marshall for bringing to my attention this very powerful image of the old and the new, side by side!

I was so awestruck by this photograph. On the left is a familiar sight… the Space Shuttle Atlantis, preparing for its November 16th liftoff from Launch Pad 39A for mission STS-129. At right is an Ares rocket, which will hopefully prove to be the next step forward in NASA exploration, using a new generation of vehicles that could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit!

Ares I-X
And perhaps what gave me a little spine tingle was the idea that this was the first launch from Kennedy's pads of a vehicle other than a Space Shuttle since Apollo's Saturn rockets were retired!

Most of you who keep up with launch events know that NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off on October 28th for a successful six-minute test flight. I avoided gushing over it, because it was on a thousand other sites, but I loved this photo enough to share the milestone. It's been a quarter of a century since this type of event!

The 327-foot-tall rocket produces 2.96 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. It reached 100mph in 8 seconds, and went supersonic at around the 40-second mark. The flight test provided NASA teams with an opportunity to prove flight characteristics, hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I program.

NASA Ares rocket
There’s an amazing photo gallery in the Constellation Archives, showing the journey of the Ares I-X from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Hangar AF at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to Launch Complex 39B, and finally to splash down of the rocket's booster stage nearly 150 miles away.

For those interested in the complexities of assembly, separation sequencing, flight control systems, integrated vehicle roll torque, booster deceleration motors and all the other procedural test flight objectives, the Wiki entry on the Ares is actually not half bad. As Wiki entries go.