Mission: ARES I-X
Current Location: Vehicle Assembly Building, High Bay 3
Target Launch Date: October 27, 2009
Target Launch Time: 8:00 a.m. EDT
Launch Window: 4 Hours
Payload: Upper Stage Simulator, Crew Module/Launch Abort System Simulator
Booster Set: BI-91L (Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster)
Launch Platform: MLP-1
Launch Pad: Pad 39B
Launch Vehicle Height: 327 Feet (approximately 2 feet shorter than the operational ARES I)
Liftoff Gross Weight: 1.8 million pounds (approximately .2 million pounds lighter than ARES I)
Preparations for rollout of the ARES I-X launch vehicle to Launch Pad 39B are underway. Mounted atop the crawler transporter, the developmental flight test rocket and its mobile launch platform are expected to begin the 4.2 mile journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the seaside launch pad beginning at approximately 12:01 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning.
Once at the launch pad engineers and technicians will ensure that all the connections between the ARES I-X rocket, its mobile launch platform, and the launch pad ground support equipment are made and ready to support launch operations. These connections include mechanical, fluid, electrical, and pneumatic interfaces.
Another launch countdown simulation will be performed on October 22 to exercise the launch team and allow them to practice normal and emergency launch procedures. If all goes according to schedule the Executive Level Flight Test Readiness Review will be held on October 23 at which time managers are expected to officially target a launch attempt on the morning of October 27.
RECENTLY COMPLETED MILESTONES:
Program FTRR – Held on October 19
- A Program Level Flight Test Readiness Review (FTRR) was conducted on Saturday and Managers gave the Ares I-X team a “GO” to proceed with Rollout of the flight test rocket to the launch pad. An Agency Level FTRR will be held on October 23.
Launch Vehicle Closeouts – In Work
- Upper Stage Simulator (USS) closeouts are complete and the access door has been installed for flight, Aft Skirt and First Stage Avionics Module (FSAM) closeouts are underway.
Main Vehicle Battery Installation – Completed October 14
- Beginning at the T-1 minute 59 second point in the launch countdown power for the Ares I-X will be supplied by the redundant batteries which have now been installed.
DFI/MDAU Software Load – Performed October 14
- Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) Master Data Acquisition Unit (MDAU) software loading was completed. The DFI system consists of hundreds of sensors located throughout the flight test vehicle that will record data during the flight.
Countdown Simulation – Performed October 12
- Two runs of the final hours and minutes of the launch count were performed to allow the launch team to practice normal and emergency procedures and increase proficiency prior to the start of the actual countdown on the morning of October 27.
Countdown Procedure Validation – Performed October 9
- A full run of the SE-INT-0180 (the cryptic name of the countdown document) Launch Countdown Procedure, including all subtasks, was performed to ensure the validity of the procedure as written. The team will apply any lessons learned to the final version of the “180” procedure.
Thermal Excursion Testing – Performed October 7
- During this test the vehicle was powered up to determine how long temperature sensitive avionics system can be exposed to the launch vehicle’s internal heat before approaching their respective limits. This test showed that should an unplanned countdown hold occur on launch day, the ARES I-X can go without purge air for the entire duration of the 4 hour launch window.
Launch Vehicle Readiness Test – Performed October 6
- This test verified the proper operation of various vehicle systems during simulated countdown and launch events
Rollout to Launch Pad 39B – October 20
Launch Pad Validation – October 20
Launch Countdown Simulation – October 22
Agency Level Flight Test Readiness Review – October 23
L-1 Day Review – October 26
Launch Countdown Begins – October 27 (currently planned for 1:00 a.m.)
Launch – October 27 at 8:00 a.m. EDT
|ARES I-X Development Flight Test Vehicle, Image Courtesy: NASA
FLIGHT TEST OBJECTIVES:
- Demonstrate flight control system performance during first stage ascent
- Assess roll torque due to first stage motor burn characteristics and performance
- Characterize first and second stage separation dynamics
- Evaluate booster parachute recovery system
- Develop and Validate processing, integration, launch and recovery operations
(This is a preliminary overview of some of the major countdown events, an updated version with more detailed event descriptions will be posted as the latest Revision to the SE-INT-0180 Countdown Procedure becomes available)
· Countdown Begins; initial weather assessment is completed, voice communications are established and the countdown clock is started
· Ares I-X flight test vehicle is powered up & systems monitoring begins
· Launch commit criteria affectivity begins
· Call to stations for the Mission Control Center in Houston
T-2 hours 30 minutes
· Final launch pad clears
· Auxiliary power unit (APU) bite & fuel pump bearing soak
T-2 hours 15 minutes
· Move rotating service structure to launch position
· Ground launch sequencer start
· Solid rocket motor (SRM) chamber pressure calibration
· Gas generator bed heater activation
T-1 hour 55 minutes
· Secure Cameras
T-1 hour 45 minutes
· Development flight instrumentation (DFI) checkout
T-1 hour 35 minutes
· Fault tolerant inertial measurement unit (FTINU) alignment
· Secure transmitter
T-1 hour 30 minutes
· Vehicle stabilization system (VSS) removal
· Eastern range hold fire checks
· Range safety system (RSS) power up
· Weather briefing
· Development flight instrumentation (DFI) recorder activation
· Erase recorders
· Activation of aft skirt gaseous nitrogen (GN2) purge
· Thrust vector control (TVC) loop test
· Enter 20 minute built-in-hold
· Cameras on
· Range clear
· Launch test director (LTD) conducts launch status check
· Start terminal count
T-3 minutes 30 seconds
· Range safety system safe & arm (RSS S&A) device is rotated to the arm position
T-3 minutes 25 seconds
· Ignition safe & arm (IGN S&A) device is rotated to the arm position
T-1 minute 59 seconds
· Switch to internal power; power now being supplied by the main vehicle batteries
T-1 minute 54 seconds
· Multiplex multiplexer (MUX) data recorder activation
T-1 minute 20 seconds
· Flight control system (FCS) terminal countdown begins; launch sequence is now controlled by the flight computer and ground commanding is disabled
· Arm sound suppression water system
· “Go Inertial”; alignment switches to navigation mode
· Auxiliary power unit start
· Solid rocket motor (SRM) nozzle gimbal check begins
· Igniter pyrotechnic initiator controller is armed
· SRM gimbal check complete
· Sound suppression water activation
· Remove range safety inhibit commands; flight termination system is functional
· Ignition command, hold down bolts are blown, LIFTOFF
FLIGHT PROFILE SUMMARY:
T-0: Ignition Commands will be sent to the Solid Rocket Motor Igniter, the 4 Hold Down Bolts, and the RoCS (Roll Control System) Pressurization pyros.
T+0.100 Seconds: As the ARES I-X rises from the mobile launch platform a “Fly-away” maneuver will be commanded to reduce the risk of contact with or damage to the Fixed Service Structure. The maneuver is essentially a yaw (or sidestep) away from the FSS.
T+6 seconds: ARES I-X should have achieved an altitude greater than 350 feet (clear of the Tower/FSS), at which point commanding of the RoCS (Roll Control System) will be enabled and 90 degree roll maneuver will be performed to orientation to an operational ARES I.
For ARES I-X, the 90 degree roll is necessitated by the pre-launch orientation of the launch vehicle atop the mobile launch platform. ARES I-X is using the same hold-down posts used for the Space Shuttle’s left SRB (solid rocket booster). This results in the Z-axis of the I-X vehicle pointing south (i.e. crew heads and windows are facing south). Rolling 90 degrees after liftoff will orient the aerodynamic protuberances (such as the systems tunnel and booster sep motors), and exhaust nozzle actuators of the ARES I-X flight test vehicles in the same manner as is planned for an operational ARES I launch which will start with the Z-axis pointing east. In other words the 90 degree roll will give the ARES I-X a similar “angle of attack” (alpha) profile to that of an operational ARES I.
The ARES I-X RoCS (Roll Control System) consists of two pods, located on opposite sides of the launch vehicle, consisting of two 2500 lb thrust jets. These thrusters were taken from the Peacekeeper Missile inventory and differ in design from the modules intended for use on the operational ARES I crew launch vehicle.
T+6.95 seconds: When the FTINU (Fault Tolerant Inertial Navigation Unit) senses an altitude of 547 feet, the booster’s TVC (Thrust Vector Control) gimbal limits will switch from 2 degrees to 4 degrees. The TVC system operates by swiveling the exhaust nozzle which in conjunction with the RoCS allows for steering of the rocket during first stage flight. Gimbal limits are set at 2 degrees until the ARES I-X is well clear of the launch tower. Along with the roll maneuver the ARES I-X will begin to pitch over, gradually reducing its pitch relative to the horizon up to the point of staging.
T+20 seconds – T+91 seconds: At this point PTIs will be enabled. PTIs (Programmed Test Inputs) will be used during the ascent to assess and characterize roll torque and roll control system performance. The PTIs will consist of a combination of pitch and yaw inputs and periods of RoCS blackouts (i.e. Roll Control System thruster firings will be inhibited multiple times for 1 second durations).
~T+120 seconds: Staging Sequence Begins
- Separation Sequence Starts – When the measured acceleration of the launch vehicle reaches the point where its total thrust is less than 40,000 pounds, as sensed by the FTINU, the stage separation sequence will begin. Staging events for the ARES I-X occur in a slightly different manner and location (i.e. different separation plane) than on an operational ARES I. Staging occurs at just over 2 minutes after liftoff at an altitude of approximately 130,000 feet and a velocity of about MACH 4.7 – this is slightly earlier, slower, and lower than what is planned for operational ARES I launches.
- Thrust Vector Control (TVC) null commands are issued to ensure to ensure angular rates/motions are minimized in an effort to prevent recontact between the separated vehicle elements.
- Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) shutdown is initiated.
- BDMs Fire – Eight Booster Deceleration Motors (BDMs) located on the Aft Skirt (a set of 4 located on opposite sides) of the Booster will fire to decelerate the First Stage Booster and help physically clear it from the Upper Stage.
- LSC Fires – A Linear Shaped Charge (LSC) will fire around the circumference of the vehicle between the Frustum and the Booster’s Forward Skirt Extension. Physical separation on an operational ARES I will occur in a different location. For an operational ARES I separation the LSC will be located between the Upper Stage Aft Skirt and the Interstage.
- BTMs Fire – About 3 seconds after the BDMs fire the Booster Tumble Motors (BTMs) will fire to initiate a rotation of the First Stage Booster.
~T+124 seconds: Actual Separation should have occurred by this point; however, if the sequence does not occur automatically as planned, a backup timer will start the burnout/separation sequence at an elapsed time of T-132 seconds. For ARES I-X Staging is expected to occur at approximate velocity of Mach 4.7, altitude of 130,000 feet, and about 37 nautical miles down range from the launch pad. For an operation ARES I mission these events would occur at velocity of about Mach 5.8, and altitude of 188,490 feet.
First Stage Booster Descent: About 3 to 3.5 minutes after separation the recovery sequence will initiate deployment of the pilot chute at an altitude of 16,000 to 17,000 feet. The pilot chute stabilizes the booster for main chute deployment at an altitude of 4,200 to 4,600 feet.
Located in the Forward Skirt, the three Main Parachute Support System (MPSS) parachutes are larger, modified versions, of the Space Shuttle Booster Parachutes. Since the ARES I uses a 5 segment Solid Rocket Motor (as opposed to the standard 4 segment motors used for the Space Shuttle) it has more mass and requires a larger parachute to control the descent. Following the deployment of the chutes the First Stage will descend into the Atlantic Ocean where it will be recovered and transported back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for post flight evaluation and processing.
Upper Stage Uncontrolled Descent: After first stage separation, the Upper Stage, Crew Module, and Launch Abort System simulators will continue on a ballistic trajectory that will peak at about 150,000 feet. Following an “uncontrolled descent”, the entire integrated stack will impact in the Atlantic approximately 125 nautical miles (~ 144 statute miles) down range of the Kennedy Space Center.
|ARES I-X Mission Profile, Image Courtesy: NASA
Please Checkout these great spherical panoramas of the ARES I-X and Firing Room from our friends at i-ota/Nasatech (Thanks John!). [Use left mouse button to move, Use right mouse button, mouse wheel or Ctrl/Shift keys to zoom.] These are color images, please allow time for them to load and try not to get vertigo:
For a Mid Level View of the Rocket in the Vehicle Assembly Building click here;
For a View of the Firing Room After Dedication Ceremony click here;
For a view of the entire Rocket from the deck of the Mobile Launch Platform click here;