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The Development of the Ares I-X Flight Test

By Robert H. Ess


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Constellation Program (CxP) has identified a series of tests to provide insight into the design and development of the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). Ares I-X was created as the first suborbital development flight test to help meet CxP objectives. The Ares I-X flight vehicle is an early operational model of Ares, with specific emphasis on Ares I and ground operation characteristics necessary to meet Ares I-X flight test objectives. Ares I-X will encompass the design and construction of an entire system that includes the Flight Test Vehicle (FTV) and associated operations. The FTV will be a test model based on the Ares I design. Select design features will be incorporated in the FTV design to emulate the operation of the CLV in order to meet the flight test objectives. The operations infrastructure and processes will be customized for Ares I-X, while still providing data to inform the developers of the launch processing system for Ares/Orion. The FTV is comprised of multiple elements and components that will be developed at different locations. The components will be delivered to the launch/assembly site, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), for assembly of the elements and components into an integrated, flight-ready, launch vehicle. The FTV will fly a prescribed trajectory in order to obtain the necessary data to meet the objectives. Ares I-X will not be commanded or controlled from the ground during flight, but the FTV will be equipped with telemetry systems, a data recording capability and a flight termination system (FTS). The in-flight part of the test includes a trajectory to simulate maximum dynamic pressure during flight and perform a stage separation representative of the CLV. The in-flight test also includes separation of the Upper Stage Simulator (USS) from the First Stage and recovery of the First Stage. The data retrieved from the flight test will be analyzed and used in the design and development of the Ares I vehicle. This paper will discuss the challenges in developing a new launch vehicle in a very short timeframe. The duration from formal Authority to Proceed to launch is 32 months with launch scheduled for April, 2009. The discussion will include changes to organizational structure, system engineering approaches, and early lessons learned for a fast tracked and highly visible project

Topics: Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
Year: 2008
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