One major step toward returning to the Moon is the launch vehicle. Though still in the development phase, the Crew Module and Launch Abort System for Ares I-X represent a major step toward the big dance, the big show, or as NASA EDGE likes to say, “Lunar Launchapalooza.” Franklin talks through the details with Ares I-X Deputy Project Manager, Jonathan Cruz, about the CM/LAS while Blair conducts his standard stowaway assessment. Let’s face it, we’re getting really, really close to actually seeing Ares I-X fly – with or without a medianaut on board.
BLAIR: Welcome to NASA EDGE.
FRANKLIN: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.
BLAIR: We’re here at NASA Langley with Jonathan Cruz, the deputy project manager for CM/LAS. Before we get started, I want to let you know I’m initiating my medianaut inspection of the CM/LAS. I’ll go over and check the flight test article and everything else, if this is a flight test article. Is it?
JONATHAN: Yes, it is.
BLAIR: Okay, I’ve got to get my lingo straight. Great. See that works perfectly. I’m going to look over it. Run it through its paces while you two get more detail taken care of. Will that work?
JONATHAN: Sounds good to me.
BLAIR: Take care of him Franklin and I’ll check this out here.
JONATHAN: Hey, can you keep an eye on this guy?
FRANKLIN: First Jonathan, what is the Ares I-X?
JONATHAN: The Ares I-X is the first test flight of the Ares I rocket. The “X” stands for experimental and the Ares I rocket is the successor to the space shuttle.
FRANKLIN: How does this all work into the test flight of the Ares I-X?
JONATHAN: The Ares I-X is a 321-foot tall rocket. This huge hardware behind us is the little, tiny, pointy part at the top of it. The crew module is the simulator for the crew in the final vehicle they’ll be riding. The launch abort system goes on top and that would extract the crew if there were an emergency during launch of the vehicle. We are using these as mass simulators and shape simulators. We have instrumentation through all of them to collect data during the flight.
BLAIR: I was noticing the CM has a lot more space than I recognized. [knocking] It has some solid material here. I think this might be perfect for my stowaway plan. What’s this? Oh. Oh! [clicking] Plaster gun, looks like it’s from “Moonraker.”
JONATHAN: These are just pure simulators for their shape and mass.
FRANKLIN: What kind of measurements or tests are you going to receive from this test flight?
JONATHAN: We have almost 150 sensors located on both the launch abort system and the crew module. You can see the blue tape covering many of them to provide protection during the final fabrication and the shipping. We’ll be measuring all the environmental…
BLAIR: There are actually a people in here. You can’t see it but they crawl along the inside. This is another good sign for me because it means there’s lots of extra space to store supplies of different kinds. If I have to be trapped in here for maybe a week I have plenty of resources.
FRANKLIN: The configuration of the CM/LAS, is this the same configuration that’s going to fly on the Ares rocket when it’s ready to go?
JONATHAN: Shape wise it’s very close. It is how it was designed two years ago when we started this project and the data from this…
BLAIR: this is nice and sealed up. Absolutely nothing is going to be in here as far as propellants are concerned, which is good to know.
JONATHAN: Data from this will be fed back into our analysis tools. Meanwhile there are ongoing design iterations. The data here will give us confidence in the future one. So the final craft will look very similar to this but perhaps not exactly like this.
BLAIR: [talking to himself]
FRANKLIN: How is this launch abort system and crew module simulator going to get to Kennedy?
BLAIR: You can actually feel wind coming out of here, air pressure. They must be cleaning something out.
JONATHAN: We’re here in the hangar at Langley, right now and right out the door here is Langley Air Force Base. Next Tuesday, we have the 70-foot trailer the launch abort is on and the 50-foot trailer we’ll place the crew module on. Both of those will be towed across and placed on an Air Force C-5 Galaxy, a very large aircraft, and flown down to Kennedy Space Center where it will land at the Shuttle Landing Facility.
FRANKLIN: How is this going to be put on top of the Ares I-X Rocket? Are you going to use the Vehicle Assembly Building?
JONATHAN: Yes, we are. The Vehicle Assembly Building is within 2 miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility. We tow the trailers into there. These components will join up with the upper stage simulator that was built at Glenn Research Center as well as the first stage that was overseen by Marshall Space Flight Center. The avionics and roll control system, those will all be stacked up vertically to make this 321-foot tall rocket inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.
FRANKLIN: The data you’re going to receive from this test flight, how is that making a better crew module, launch abort system that you will do test flights for down the road?
JONATHAN: Some of the people, who have done the initial research on this, done the wind tunnel tests, and done other designs, have requested sensors of a particular type and placement on this. We have placed and worked with them to get them where they want them. That data will be provided to them. They will check their analyses and use that knowledge in future designs.
FRANKLIN: Is there going to be any kind of test instruments loaded in there by the time it flies?
JONATHAN: All the instrumentation we’re using is largely on the surface. There are a couple that are measuring, for example, the center acoustics. There’s very large acoustics during launch. All of the data recorders are further down in the vehicle. We have cabling that takes the signals from all these sensors and carries it down lower into the vehicle.
BLAIR: The plans… the genesis of the CM, these documents. Interesting. I see lots of space here. I could put a flat-screen TV over here. I’m thinking hammock because I’ll get that free fall dynamic.
FRANKLIN: When this is launched, are you going to be able to recover the CM/LAS?
JONATHAN: What we’re recovering is the data? The crew module, launch abort system will remained attached to the upper stage. That as a unit will continue on and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
BLAIR: What you have to do is take a few snapshots. [camera click] Not that I’m saving these or anything like that. This is only for personal use. [camera click] Perfect. Cool.
FRANKLIN: Blair will be able to get a ride on the Ares I-X?
JONATHAN: Unless you want him to get a ride on the Ares I-X.
FRANKLIN: Blair, would like a ride on the Ares I-X?
BLAIR: I just had some questions about that. It looks like there’s some room. You have a lot of space where I could rig up a hammock or something like that. There’s some bungees. I was just looking over the plans. That might be possible.
FRANKLIN: I was looking in here. There’s a lot of open space.
BLAIR: Get me in there with a hammock, a thermos and a couple extra pillows.
FRANKLIN: You said this was two minutes of flight time?
FRANKLIN: You don’t even need to pack a lunch.
BLAIR: Never forget packing the lunch. That’s always important, man. Never, never forget lunch. In fact. I want to go over those plans. I think I can modify the living space perfectly for someone of my stature. Hopefully that will work.
FRANKLIN: Jonathan, it was great talking to you. We appreciate all your help. Good luck on the upcoming launch.
JONATHAN: Thank you. I appreciate you coming.
BLAIR: Let’s go over those plans and we’ll talk about it.
JONATHAN: Let’s take a look and see what we can get.
BLAIR: I have a whole living space over here. I think it should work out just perfectly.
VOICE: This is NASA EDGE!
Page Editor: Blair Allen