Ares I-X Rocket Segment Arrives At Kennedy Space Center For Assembly
The last new section of the Ares I-X test rocket arrived at Kennedy Space Center for assembly, prior to the next-generation U.S. spacecraft rocket soaring on its first flight sometime in the summer, NASA announced.
That section was taken to the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility.
Called the frustum, the section resembles a giant funnel. Its transfers the primary flight loads from the rocket’s upper stage to the first stage. The frustum is located between the forward skirt extension and the upper stage of the Ares I-X.
"It is always great to get the hardware to the launch site, and once the motors arrive in just a few weeks, the entire launch vehicle can begin final processing prior to stacking operations in the Vehicle Assembly Building," said Jon Cowart, the Ares I-X deputy mission manager at Kennedy.
That initial Ares I-X launch will provide NASA with an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I launch vehicle. The flight test also will bring NASA a step closer to its exploration goals of sending humans to the moon and destinations beyond.
The first manned flight of the Orion space capsule (crew exploration vehicle) atop an Ares I rocket is scheduled for 2015. Because the space shuttles cease flying next year, NASA for half a decade will have no vehicle to carry astronauts to space.
The frustum is manufactured by Major Tool and Machine Inc. in Indiana under a subcontract with Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, the Ares first stage prime contractor. Weighing in at approximately 13,000 pounds, the 10-foot-long section is composed of two aluminum rings attached to a truncated conic section. The large diameter of the cone is 18 feet and the small diameter is 12 feet. The cone is 1.25 inches thick.
Much rigorous design, development and testing had to be accomplished prior to manufacturing all of the new segments that make up the Ares I-X first stage.
The frustum will be integrated with the forward skirt and forward skirt extension, which already are in the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility. That will complete the forward assembly. The assembly then will be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking operations, which are scheduled to begin in April.