NASA’s Ares I-X test rocket lifted off at 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a 2-minute powered flight. The test flight lasted about 6 minutes from its launch from the newly-modified Launch Complex 39B until splash down of the rocket’s booster stage nearly 150 miles down range.
“This is a huge step forward for NASA’s exploration goals,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Ares I-X provides NASA with an enormous amount of data that will be used to improve the design and safety of the next generation of American spaceflight vehicles — vehicles that could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit.”
The 327-foot tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g’s and Mach 4.76, just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a sub-orbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster.
Parachutes deployed for recovery of the booster and the solid rocket motor will be recovered at sea for later inspection. The simulated upper stage, Orion crew module, and launch abort system will not be recovered.
Related blog: Contributing Editor Mike Reynolds shares firsthand account of historic launch