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Fri, Mar 20, 2009

Final Ares I-X Test Hardware Arrives In Florida

Launch Scheduled For This Summer

After a seven-day, 2,917-mile journey, a train carrying the four motor segments for the Ares I-X rocket arrived Thursday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The motor is the final hardware needed for the rocket's upcoming test flight this summer.

The test flight will provide NASA an early opportunity to check and prove hardware, analysis and modeling methods, and facilities and ground operations needed to develop the Ares I, which is NASA's next crew launch vehicle. The test also will allow NASA to gather critical data during the ascent of the integrated stack, which will help inform the design of the Ares I rocket and the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The data will ensure the entire vehicle system is safe and fully operational before astronauts begin traveling in it to the International Space Station and moon.

The reusable segments departed March 13 from Promontory, UT where Ares I first stage prime contractor Alliant Techsystems Inc. manufactured them.

"We have achieved a tremendous milestone with the arrival of the segments," said Bob Ess, mission manager for Ares I-X at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "For NASA personnel and contractor teams throughout the country, this is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication."

The Ares I-X first stage uses a four-segment solid rocket motor capable of generating 3.3 million pounds of thrust. The motor provides the primary propulsion for the vehicle from liftoff to stage separation 120 seconds into the flight.

The motor segments for the flight test were taken from the existing space shuttle solid rocket booster inventory. The booster used for the Ares I-X launch is being modified by adding new forward structures and a fifth segment simulator. These modifications help NASA better replicate the size and shape of the five-segment booster that will be used for the Ares I crew launch vehicle.

"As we move toward a flight this summer, it is exciting to see the final hardware arrive at the launch site," said Bob Herman, ATK's Florida site director. "We are honored to play an important role in helping NASA achieve its exploration goals."

Having arrived at Kennedy, the segments now will be transferred to the center's Rotation Processing and Surge facility for final processing and integration. The stacking operations are scheduled to begin in the Vehicle Assembly Building in April.



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