October 28, 2009—NASA this morning launched a prototype of its first new rocket in nearly 30 years. The Ares I-X is a precursor of the rocket that could launch humans back to the moon and carry the space shuttle's replacement spacecraft, Orion.
© 2009 National Geographic; Video: NASA
After weather issues scrubbed Tuesdays scheduled launch, NASA on Wednesday morning launched its latest moon rocket for a test run.
The ARES 1-X is a first step in getting NASA astronauts to the moon and beyond, and the vehicle is a prototype of the rocket that will power the Orion spacecraft, scheduled to replace the shuttle.
Its the first time in nearly 30 years NASA has unveiled a new rocket for space exploration.
NASA gathered critical data during the rockets ascent, and it carried a simulated Ares vehicle and simulated Orion crew module. NASA wants to ensure the rockets design is safe and stable before astronauts begin traveling into orbit.
SOUNDBITE: Bob Ess, NASA Ares 1-X Mission Manager
Well get a feedback within the first few days of generally how the vehicle flew.. .what direction it went and specifics like that. But as we get more and more detail, its a huge amount of data. 700 sensors (on board) theyre all sampled many times a second. Its reams and reams of data that will take at best months, to go through and understand if the vehicle really behaved the way we thought it would, but also to take that data and to use it for its real purpose which is to update all the computer models that we have. Its something well be working on for the next couple of years to go do.
The flight didnt even leave the earths atmosphere it lasted just over two minutes and reached an altitude of about 28 miles eastward over the Atlantic Ocean. First stage separation came after 2 minutes, with the first stage parachuting down to the ocean to be recovered. The dummy second stage with Orion mockups crashed into the ocean and was not recovered.
The Ares I-X flight is the first of three planned test flights for the Ares I rocket. The next launch, dubbed Ares I-Y, is slated to launch in 2014 and will have a real second stage.
The third mission, called Orion I, is scheduled to launch an actual Orion spacecraft into orbit, but will be unmanned.