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Ares 1-X Ready On Pad, Launch Set For 1200 GMT 260

Posted by timothy
from the until-further-notice dept.
DynaSoar writes "NASA's new Ares I-X rocket is undergoing final preparations for its planned launch test Tuesday, October 27. Launch time is scheduled for 8 AM EDT (1200 GMT). As of noon Monday it appeared that there was a 60% chance of showers and/or high altitude clouds interfering. However, the launch has a an eight hour window of opportunity through 2000 GMT, and would require only 10 minutes of clear skies within that time to fly. Of interest to engineering types, both those who favor the new vehicle's design and its critics, will be to see whether the predicted linear 'pogo stick' oscillation will occur, and whether the dampening design built into it prevents damaging and possibly destructive shaking. Extensive coverage is being presented by Space.com; for NASA TV streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit nasa.gov/ntv." Update 15:37 GMT by timothy: The weather did not cooperate; today's planned launch has been scrubbed.
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Ares 1-X Ready On Pad, Launch Set For 1200 GMT

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  • As long as they are good....

    Query: are rockets spaceships and if so are they female like normal ships? They've always seemed a bit to... phallic and gaseous to be female.

  • by blackchiney (556583) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:00AM (#29881863)
    I'm watching the stream now of them assembling the Ares and I must say the VAB is the most impressive building I've ever seen. I got to tour the inside (way back in the early 90s) and the amount of empty space available, inside a building that can withstand hurricane force winds. It is truly mind-boggling.
    • by qmaqdk (522323) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:04AM (#29881873)

      I'm watching the stream now of them assembling the Ares and I must say the VAB is the most impressive building I've ever seen. I got to tour the inside (way back in the early 90s) and the amount of empty space available, inside a building that can withstand hurricane force winds. It is truly mind-boggling.

      I've always wondered about that building. Why is it so much better to do the assembly vertically, rather than doing it horizontally and then raising the vehicle afterwards?

      • by Angostura (703910) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:15AM (#29881905)

        Can you imagine the lateral stress on the structure if you attempted to build it horizontally and then hoist? I suspect the engineering challenge involved in building a machine that would give sufficient support along the full length of a multi-story structure as it was raised to vertical would be substantially greater than the challenge of constructing a tall, hurricane resistant building.

        • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:27AM (#29881949) Homepage Journal

          Most launch vehicles are optimised to the point where they are basically balloons. They can't support themselves unless their tanks are pressurised and then only in one direction.

          I read that US engineers watched with amazement when a Russian booster was winched off a truck at an air show supported horizontally by two cables, one at either end.

          • by maxume (22995) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:39AM (#29882471)

            Was it "How did they do that?" amazement, or was it "Why did they do that?" amazement?

          • by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:19AM (#29882829)

            Most launch vehicles are optimised to the point where they are basically balloons. They can't support themselves unless their tanks are pressurised and then only in one direction.

            I read that US engineers watched with amazement when a Russian booster was winched off a truck at an air show supported horizontally by two cables, one at either end.

            Actually, that is *not* true in general. It was true for the original Atlas, and is true for the Centaur high-energy upper stage, but most other modern launchers avoid balloon tanks. Most modern designs are very fragile, but self-supporting when unpressurized. That doesn't mean you can hoist them any way you please, but it's still a vast improvement in ease of handling. One of the requirements on the Shuttle External Tank design was that it not be a balloon tank. It was later discovered (to much embarrassment and annoyance) that the ET is self-supporting when empty or full, but that there is a partially-full intermediate range where it isn't, so it has to be filled while pressurized.

            Some smaller launchers are assembled horizontally; in particular, SpaceX's Falcon I and Falcon 9 are. They're still fairly fragile, but they're closer to the Russian design approach in a variety of ways. Trading more structural margin, and hence lower payload fraction, for easier operations and hence lower cost per payload mass is one of those.

        • "Can you imagine the lateral stress on the structure if you attempted to build it horizontally and then hoist?

          Ask the Russians, that's how they rig the Soyuz rockets [starryskies.com]. Been doing it pretty successfully for 40 years or so now.

      • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:24AM (#29881937)
        Because you can build lighter structures if you assume that certain loadings can be rejected - if you assemble it horizontally, then the joins and internal support structures must be strengthened to support the dyanmic weight in the raising of the entire structure, rather than just supporting the weight of the structures above it in a static way.
      • For the same reason you don't assemble buildings horizontally and raise them. The lateral forces would be great and you would end up creating a lot of supports for one time use.
      • --I've always wondered about that building. Why is it so much better to do the assembly vertically, rather than doing it horizontally and then raising the vehicle afterwards?--

        For the same reason it is better to test rockets vertical. It may be cheaper the other way, but I think you have more failures that way too. Those SRB's were always tested horizontal (not good). Now once and for all we can get a vertical rocket test of the SRB. The same goes for the assembly. You don't have to design the rocket to tak

  • by agentgonzo (1026204) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:18AM (#29881923)
    NasaTV Feeds at different resolutions:
    100k/s [yahoo.com], 320/240
    200k/s [yahoo.com], 320/240
    500k/s [yahoo.com], 480x360(I think)
    1200k/s [yahoo.com], 640/480
    All Windows Media format

    Real media format [nasa.gov]
    Quicktime [nasa.gov]

    Launch data [nasa.gov]
    • by cpscotti (1032676) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:59AM (#29882253)
      Fun thing is... these links broadcasting show the following string on the bottom on "Windows Media Player": "NASA Space Shuttle Launch"
      • The video is actually NasaTV's public channel, which a lot of the time is not showing live TV (instead, showing past missions, upcoming missions, press briefings etc). The only things that are shown live are really the space shuttle missions and press briefings. The vast majority of viewings are for space shuttle launches only. Yahoo (provider of the feeds) does not bother to update their metadata and just leaves it on "Nasa Space Shuttle Launch" the entire time.
    • ...I wonder if it could get blown off course :0
    • by zrq (794138)

      Is anyone else having problems with these feeds on Linux with VLC ?

      The 200k/s Windows Media stream seems to work ok, but the higher resolution streams just display a few frames of video and then lock up.

      The Real Media stream only provides audio, but it seems to be at about 60 seconds ahead of the Windows Media streams.

      • The windows media streams are about 1-2 minutes behind the live events. RM stream is about 10-15 seconds behind live events. If you're getting problems with the higher bandwidth streams, then it may be because of bandwidth issues, either at your end or because there are so many people subscribed to the feed. This has happened before (LCROSS) and I've had old versions of VLC appear to lock up if the stream drops packets (I don't know which version of VLC you are using)
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:36AM (#29881983) Journal

    What is going to happen with the Ares V? I heard rumors about it being scrapped. I hope they were wrong?

    • What is going to happen with the Ares V? I heard rumors about it being scrapped. I hope they were wrong?

      No decisions as yet. Stay tuned.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:05PM (#29886525)

      The Augustine commission offered the administration about 10 options, some of which continue Ares V development, while others don't. All options that remain within the current budget (not the extra $3B required to do anything impressive according to the report) continue Ares V development.

      However, all of the options presented push for a heavy lift capability. Other options include
      - 'Ares V Lite': a lower-performance version of Ares V that would be human rated and could potentially reduce development costs primarily by eliminating the need for Ares 1
      - Shuttle-derived: Either a sidemount cargo vehicle (probably requiring something like an Ares 1 for crew launch), or a top-mount shuttle derived design like Jupiter. These would be less capable than Ares V, but still powerful and potentially cheaper -- you could achieve a lunar mission with 2 or 3 launches.
      - EELVs: Creating larger Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles from the Delta or Atlas family. These would be the least capable. These are also the biggest question mark because cost savings would come in a large part from a restructuring of rocket development to a DoD style model, where contractors are given requirements, not designs.

      All of these, in combination with various targets and schedules were analyzed by the committee. None of the options comes out as a clear winner as cheaper or better, since Ares V has some considerable sunk costs that make its cheaper relative to the others, while designing even a sidemount cargo pod is more expensive than some probably think. Personally I like EELVs because it forces a change in the way business is done, but thats me.

  • by jstults (1406161) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:05AM (#29882281) Homepage
    The vibrations that are commonly called 'pogo' in big rockets are caused by a feedback / resonance of thrust oscillations with inlet pressure of the turbopumps, see this extensive discussion [yarchive.net]. Pogo is fixed by adding dampers to the propellant lines. Ares I, like every big solid, has combustion instabilities that cause thrust oscillations, but there's no feedback like in a liquid rocket. Only danger is hitting one of the structural resonances and ringing the rocket like a bell (and possibly causing the structure to 'diverge').
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by raymansean (1115689)

      structure to 'diverge'

      Never hearing the term before, it very succinctly communicates the situation. I must say the mental image is also quite pleasant. Well done!
      ~the chemical engineering student who uses numerical methods to solve large problems

      • by turing_m (1030530) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:07AM (#29882713)

        Never hearing the term before, it very succinctly communicates the situation. I must say the mental image is also quite pleasant. Well done! ~the chemical engineering student who uses numerical methods to solve large problems

        I suspect that the term "blow up" would be just as apt, though a little less British in the degree of understatement.

        • by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:12AM (#29884153)

          Never hearing the term before, it very succinctly communicates the situation. I must say the mental image is also quite pleasant. Well done! ~the chemical engineering student who uses numerical methods to solve large problems

          I suspect that the term "blow up" would be just as apt, though a little less British in the degree of understatement.

          Rocket engineers are fond of that form of understatement. I've also heard "unscheduled disassembly", and I'm particularly fond of "turbine-rich exhaust".

  • What is the point? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by new death barbie (240326) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:25AM (#29882357)

    Why is NASA so bent on using the solid-fuel boosters, when the military already has the much cheaper Delta iV Heavy and Atlas V rockets that have been proven?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by icebrain (944107)

      Well, Delta and Atlas don't keep former shuttle employees busy. And everyone knows that reusing large components of something entirely different will make the end result cheaper... because you never have to do rework and the reused components are always optimal for the design.

      Oh, I'm sorry, I'll wipe up the extra sarcasm I spilled there...

    • by demachina (71715) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:06AM (#29884065)

      Solid-fuel boosters keep jobs in the state of Utah so you can count on Orrin Hatch, very powerful senator from Utah supporting NASA's budget....

      Someone said on a previous thread the Ares 1 has such a goofy look because the SRB's built in Utah have to pass through a train tunnel so they can't be increased in diameter which is why it looks so top heavy.

      There is certainly a benefit to SRB's in that you don't have all the complexities of cryogenic fuels, and having to fuel before launch. That's why the Air Force uses them in ICBM's, they are extremely simple to launch. They are also somewhat safer than liquid fuels in some respects. It certainly remains to be seen if they will work the way NASA is trying to use them, especially how bad the vibration will be.

      It certainly would have been better if NASA could have finished the SRB facility in Mississippi, which was killed twice, so they could be shipped to Kennedy on barges and the diameter constraints would have been removed. I wager Utah's senators helped kill it to keep the jobs in Utah.

      NASA's manned space program is 90% jobs program, 10% space program at this point, in case you hadn't noticed.

      • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @12:42PM (#29885345) Journal

        There is certainly a benefit to SRB's in that you don't have all the complexities of cryogenic fuels, and having to fuel before launch. That's why the Air Force uses them in ICBM's, they are extremely simple to launch. They are also somewhat safer than liquid fuels in some respects. It certainly remains to be seen if they will work the way NASA is trying to use them, especially how bad the vibration will be.

        On the other hand, there's plenty of ways that SRBs are also more dangerous. Pretty much the only failure modes SRBs have are catastrophic explosions, and since you can't shut them off like you can with liquid rockets it makes it rather difficult to launch-escape if something goes wrong. It's also considerably more difficult to handle for the ground personnel, as summarized well in this blog post by "Chair Force Engineer":

        http://chairforceengineer.blogspot.com/2009/10/worlds-largest-stick-of-dynamite.html [blogspot.com]

        Just when it seemed like the history books had been closed on the Challenger disaster, I came across a review of Truth, Lies & O-Rings, an interesting look at the faulty decision-making leading up to launch. (hat tip to Clark Lindsey's Hobbyspace.) The reviewer makes an interesting point about the dangers inherent in ground handling of solid rockets. Many of the inherent disadvantages of SRBs have been long-discussed, such as the inability to shut them down during abort situations. But handling and storing the motors carries all the potential dangers of riding on them. For that reason, SRB stacking operations are classified as "hazardous operations," and all non-essential personnel are banned from the Vehicle Assembly Building. The procedure is similar for stacking the stages of other solid-fuel launch vehicles. In spite of all the precautions and built-in safety mechanisms, the potential always exists for a catastrophic solid-fuel detonation, as occurred with Brazil's orbital launch vehicle.

        While I tend to think that the risk is overstated (the industry has been dealing with large solid rockets since the 1940's,) it can never be entirely eliminated. For this reason, Jeff Bell predicted that the SRB would be deleted from the shuttle-derived launch vehicles under development by NASA. Many "space boosters" are dismissive of Jeff Bell, viewing him as a cynic whose arguments aren't worth the paper they're written on. I'll concede that his predictions often come with fatal flaws, but he does make a lot of solid arguments and presents plenty of pertinent facts. In the case of the aforementioned prediction, Jeff Bell's fatal flaw is assuming that NASA would choose a safe, clean-sheet launcher design over one that protects the shuttle's entrenched workforce and contractors.

        The ground-handling of large solid rockets (and even the individual segments) was an issue that should have been re-examined when Ares I was designed to be "safe, simple and soon." While NASA personnel have done an admirable job in handling the SRB's up to this point, it's sobering to know that just one mistake could cost a lot of lives and pull the plug on the nation's manned space program. The Ares 5-segment SRB will be the world's largest stick of dynamite, and that risk should never be lost on anybody who works in the space business.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @01:42PM (#29886199) Journal

    Some items to note:

    • The rocket [nationalgeographic.com] is the tallest [space.com] (and possibly most expensive, at $450 million) suborbital rocket ever assembled, consisting of a solid rocket motor from the Space Shuttle and an Atlas V avionics system, with a non-functional upper stage put on top.
    • The Ares I-X has roughly the same shape (but different internal components) compared to NASA's planned medium-lift Ares I, which is scheduled to be completed after 2017 with an estimated cost of $1-$2 billion per launch. A lot of people have been calling this a flight test of the Ares I, but considering how drastically different the Ares I would be in flight, it's really quite a stretch. If anything, it's more similar to a full-size wind tunnel test.
    • Even though the fate of the Ares I itself (and the overall future direction [thespacereview.com] of NASA spaceflight) is uncertain, the >700 sensors on the Ares I-X should provide data useful for validating computer models [spaceflightnow.com] used by NASA."
    • For all its faults, it's still worth noting that this is somewhat of an accomplishment for NASA, as its the first new launch vehicle design they've attempted to launch in 30 years, after a long string of failed designs (X-30, X-33, X-34, National Launch System, Space Launch Initiative, Orbital Space Plane). Actually, now that I think about it, the DC-X [wikipedia.org] successfully launched, although I suppose that was constructed by McDonnell Douglas for the DOD before it was transferred to (and canceled by) NASA. Of course, one could still ask why NASA is trying to internally design a new vehicle when the private sector has a much better track record over the past 30 years of bringing new launch vehicle designs into service, but I imagine it's still been a learning experience for NASA. Hopefully they'll learn the right lessons from it, whatever those are.

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