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Hardware Arrives For Ares 1-X Test Flight

By | November 17, 2008

      A major piece of hardware for the Ares 1-X rocket arrived at Kennedy Space Center last week.

      Ares, the rocket that someday will power Orion space capsule flights, is being developed by several contractors. Ares 1-X will launch in a test set for July.

      As for that hardware, it is called the forward skirt. It is part of the Ares first stage.

      That launch will test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I rocket.

      The forward skirt began its trip Nov. 7 from Major Tool & Machine Inc. of Indiana, a subcontractor to Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, of Utah. ATK is the prime contractor for the first stage of the Ares I rocket.

      Other companies are working separately on other portions of the Ares lifter.

      NASA, in the Constellation Program, is leading development of the Orion space capsule (crew exploration vehicle) by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT]. Orion and the Altair lunar lander will be boosted by the Ares rocket that will have various components developed by The Boeing Co. [BA], ATK, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp. [UTX].

      The rocket’s first stage provides the primary propulsion — 2.6 million pounds of thrust — for the vehicle from liftoff to stage separation, which occurs 120 seconds into the flight. Part of the first stage, the nearly 14,000-pound forward skirt is constructed entirely of armored steel and stands seven feet tall and 12 1/4 feet wide. The main deceleration parachutes that slow the return of the rocket’s boosters to Earth after launch are attached to this hardware. The forward skirt was designed as an empty, buoyant space to be used as ballast, keeping the first stage afloat for recovery.

      "We could not be more pleased that the vehicle first stage hardware is beginning to arrive," said Pepper Phillips, director of the Constellation Project Office at Kennedy.

      The upper stage simulator was the first major piece of the Ares I-X rocket to arrive at Kennedy Nov. 4. During the next few months, all of the additional hardware needed to complete the test vehicle will be delivered to Kennedy, beginning with a piece that simulates a fifth segment for the four-segment solid rocket booster and concluding with delivery of the complete motor set in January.

      United Space Alliance (USA) of Florida, under a subcontract to ATK, will complete integration and assembly of the forward skirt in the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility. The hardware then will be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking operations in high bay 3 during the spring.

      "The forward skirt has 12 parachute brackets, with each bracket restraining two parachute spools," said Bob Herman, ATK Florida site director. "For the Ares I-X launch, six of these spools will be used to measure parachute loads passed on to the forward skirt."

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