On January 14, 2004 President George W. Bush announced the Orion spacecraft, known then as the Crew Exploration Vehicle as part of the Vision for Space Exploration: "Our second goal is to develop and test a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, by 2008, and to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014. The newest addition to NASA's spacecraft for human space exploration is Orion. It was partly created as a reaction to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Orion also replaced the conceptual Orbital Space Plane and the experimental X-33. Its purpose is to become the primary manned space vehicle, replacing the Space Shuttle which is to be retired in 2010. Orion will deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station and also take astronauts to the Moon. Orion was formerly known as the Crew Exploration Vehicle for NASA's Project Constellation to send human explorers back to the Moon. Its development is taking place in parallel with missions to complete the International Space Station.
Ares I is the booster that will carry Orion and the Ares V will carry the larger cargo launch vehicle. Orion consists of the Earth Departure Stage (EDS), the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM), and the Ares rocket system as part of NASA's Project Constellation. It will be launched from Kennedy Space Center.
The Ares I first stage has been under development since 2005. Based on the design of the Space Shuttle's four-segment booster, the first stage differs from its predecessor in the addition of a fifth segment, changes to the propellant grain, a larger nozzle opening and upgraded insulation and liner. All of these combined modifications provide higher performance. Many of the components of the Ares 1 launch vehicle in their assembled and stacked configuration are either new or require major redesign and development. The "new development" label is is fully apropos when discussing most of the hardware associated with Constellation.
Ares I is an in-line, two-stage rocket configuration topped by the Orion crew vehicle and its launch abort system. In addition to the vehicle's primary mission -- carrying crews of four to six astronauts to Earth orbit -- Ares I may also use its 25-ton payload capacity to deliver resources and supplies to the International Space Station, or to "park" payloads in orbit for retrieval by other spacecraft bound for the moon or other destinations.
During launch, the first-stage booster powers the vehicle toward low Earth orbit. In mid-flight, the reusable booster separates and the upper stage's J-2X engine ignites, putting the vehicle into a circular orbit. Crew transportation to the International Space Station is planned to begin no later than 2014. The first lunar excursion is scheduled for the 2020 timeframe.
The Ares I first stage is a single, five-segment reusable solid rocket booster derived from the Space Shuttle Program's reusable solid rocket motor, which burns a specially formulated and shaped solid propellant. A newly designed forward adapter will mate the vehicle's first stage to the upper stage, and will be equipped with booster separation motors to disconnect the stages during ascent. The Ares I second, or upper, stage is propelled by a J-2X main engine fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The J-2X is an evolved variation of two historic predecessors: the powerful J-2 engine that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets, and the J-2S, a simplified version of the J-2 developed and tested in the early 1970s but never flown.
- NASA and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) made history on 10 September 2009 as they conducted the first test of the Ares I first stage five-segment development solid rocket motor, marking the first steps into a new era of space exploration. It is the most powerful and reliable solid rocket booster in the world, and is planned for NASA's Ares I and Ares V rockets.
NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off at 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday 28 October 2009 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-minute powered flight. The flight test lasted about six minutes from its launch from the newly modified Launch Pad 39B until splashdown of the rocket's booster stage nearly 150 miles downrange. The 327-foot tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g's and Mach 4.76, just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a suborbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster. Parachutes deployed for recovery of the booster and the solid rocket motor will be recovered at sea for later inspection. The simulated upper stage and Orion crew module, and launch abort system will not be recovered.
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