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NASA Targets Date for First Ares I Flight Test
NASA held a Constellation Exploration update on Aug. 27 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to provide an update on the progress of the Ares I-1 flight test project, the Project Orion crew vehicle and Ares V cargo launch vehicles.

Expanded view of the Ares I The Ares I-1 flight test strategy includes crew exploration vehicle pad and ascent abort tests at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, as well as the Ares I development flight test, Ares I ascent tests and Ares I orbital tests, which will all take place at Kennedy, said Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Image left: The Ares I in-line, two-stage rocket configuration topped by the Orion crew vehicle. Image credit: NASA + View Larger Image

Flight test objectives will include control of the following: a dynamically similar vehicle to the one that will actually be used; an integrated stack; first stage/upper stage separation; atmospheric entry dynamics and chute performance; first-stage roll torque measurements from the solid motors; and assembly and recovery operations concepts of the Ares-like first stage at Kennedy.

"We are targeting April 2009 for the first test flight," Hanley said, adding the test site will be Launch Pad 39B, targeted to be available by 2008.

Steve Cook, exploration launch projects manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, presented an overview of the Ares I-1 system. This included the Orion crew vehicle simulator, upper stage simulator, and interstage and first stage segments.

The first stage will use an existing motor from mission STS-114 and an aft skirt, which are here at Kennedy.

Artistic concept of the cargo launch vehicle. Image right: This is an artist's rendering of the Ares V cargo launch vehicle. Image credit: NASA/John Frassanito and Associates

The crew launch vehicle's first stage processing will include teams from Kennedy, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Marshall to build the upper stage and transport it to Kennedy. Cook showed a video animation of crew launch vehicle stacking inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. The stacked vehicle will be transported to the launch pad using the crawler transporter and the mobile launch platform.

Cook said wind tunnel tests using vehicle models with various protuberances have been performed at Marshall, the Langley Research Center in Virginia and by Boeing. Abort modeling simulations are being performed at NASA's Ames Research Center in California.

Fabrication of ARES-1 upper stage vehicle flight hardware is in the works at Glenn. The upper stage will be assembled at the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.

Cook said the upper stage will use the J-2 engine. Development and testing is ongoing at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, including integrated power head demonstrations and the J-2X component development injector phase.

"Every successful test firing and space shuttle launch allows the team to gather more test data towards our ultimate goals," Cook said.

Artist's rendering of rendezvous and docking operations at the ISS. Stennis is collaborating with the U.S. Air Force to test the RS-68 engine for the Ares V core stage to understand how they can best work together on the engine.

Image left: This artist's rendering represents a concept of rendezvous and docking operations between an Orion vehicle and the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA/John Frassanito and Associates

Skip Hatfield, crew exploration vehicle project manager at Johnson, said the launch abort system is being developed at Langley. Development of the crew module is at Johnson, and the service module and spacecraft adapter at Glenn. Mockups of each segment are serving as pathfinders to help understand the general outline of the vehicle and how some of the components might be placed inside them.

Tests to characterize thermal protection materials for the heat shield are being performed at the Ames Research Center's Arc Jet Facility, as well as at Johnson. Wind tunnel tests are being performed to gain knowledge about flow patterns around the capsule during re-entry.

For more information, please visit:
Constellation Program Site

Linda Herridge, Staff Writer
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center