KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--A preliminary look at data from NASA's Ares I-X test flight Wednesday shows the towering rocket performed as well or better than computer modeling predicted during the climb out of the dense lower atmosphere, a senior NASA manager said Friday.
One of three huge parachutes failed to inflate during the spent booster's descent to the Atlantic Ocean and a second chute only inflated halfway, resulting in a hard splash down that caused the rocket's case to buckle.
But Mission Manager Bob Ess said the parachute system, flying for the first time, was designed for NASA's planned Ares 1 rocket, which is 15 percent lighter than the test version, and that engineers will have plenty of time to correct whatever went wrong.
"No one is concerned about it," Ess said. "In fact, the parachute guys were ecstatic, was their words, (about) the information they got from this flight. They really wanted to test this out."
The Ares I-X rocket was designed to match the characteristics of NASA's planned shuttle replacement, the more powerful Ares I. The test version featured a four-segment shuttle booster, a dummy fifth segment housing guidance and control equipment and an unpowered mockup of the rocket's upper stage and crew capsule.
The 327-foot-tall test rocket was launched Wednesday from shuttle complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center. The major goals of the unmanned six-minute flight were to collect engineering data on how the tall, slender rocket flew through the lower atmosphere, how the structure responded to aerodynamic and acoustic forces and how the new parachute system, scaled for the planned Ares I, performed.
During the initial seconds of flight, the rocket's nozzle moved 1 degree as planned to help the booster "walk off" the pad, preventing its hot exhaust plume from hitting the upper sections of the shuttle service gantry. As expected, the plume caused minor damage to the lower sections of the gantry, but Ess said that would not be a problem for the new service tower that will be used for Ares rockets.… Read more