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NASA's Marshall Center Demonstrates Successful First Weld with Tools to Be Used on Ares I Upper Stage Hardware Test Articles
Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Photo release: 08-106

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Ala., engineers made the first "official" weld with tools that will enable development of the upper stage of the Ares I rocket. For this historic moment, the engineers used tools that soon will aid in manufacture of major test hardware for the Ares I rocket, slated to carry human missions back to the moon, on to Mars and out into the solar system in coming decades.

A cutting-edge, metal-joining process known as friction stir welding -- first used in the aerospace industry in 2005 to weld elements of the space shuttle external tank -- will be used. Friction stir welding produces high-strength, almost defect-free bonding at joints. Significantly, it can weld materials with uniform precision -- a vital requirement for next-generation launch vehicles and hardware that must endure long-term space travel.

NASA is now developing hardware and systems for the Ares I. Beginning in 2015, the rocket will launch the Orion crew capsule to the International Space Station, carrying six astronauts and small pressurized cargo payloads.

The Ares I is a single, five-segment, reusable solid rocket booster derived from the Space Shuttle Program's reusable solid rocket motor. Ares I may use its 25-ton payload capacity to deliver resources and supplies to the space station, or to "park" payloads in orbit for retrieval by other spacecraft bound for the moon or other destinations.

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Friction stir weld tool. > Large (4256 x 2832, 240 ppi)
> Medium (516 x 343, 72 ppi)
> Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

Friction stir weld tool. (NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham)