back to article Ares I-X stuck on the pad

NASA's Ares I-X is still standing on Kennedy Space Centre's launchpad 39B, following the cancellation of the first trailblazing flight of the Constellation programme. The Ares I-X on the launchpad earlier today. Pic: NASA TV The launch was delayed while NASA eyed the skies with suspicion, and a stray cargo ship in the launch …


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  1. Jeff 10

    One step backwards for man...

    Wasn't this called Apollo about 40 years ago? OK, so parts are reusable, but still doesn't excite me. I thought by now we'd have horizontal-to-orbit capabilities at least.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    According to QI

    Rockets perform best when going horizontal, and just after Max-q the shuttle will perform a "roll" to an inclination of 51.6 degrees

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    @Jeff 10

    No, Apollo had a lot more capability. Especially since the lander is still a pile of powerpoint slides. Apollo was a lot safer too, w/o solids in the mix.

  4. Annihilator

    @Jeff 10

    "Wasn't this called Apollo about 40 years ago?"

    Or indeed Gemini.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    So what will this prove?

    IIRC one of the "Grand Challenges" of the Strategic Computing Initative was a detailed sim of the SRB. A full coupled CFD (internal and external flows) linked to the structural dynamics.

    I'm not sure how well this worked out but it does seem *very* hard to believe that NASA is so unsure about what will happen that it feels the need to slap a dummy stage on the SRB (I think a 5 segment SRB was desigend as a Shuttle upgrade but not sure if it got to a ground test).

    One of the key lessons learned from assorted previous programmes (UK, and US including the Shuttle main engine) was the best simulator for components of a new engine *is* a new engine. Or in IT terms build early, integrate early, test early, repair early.

    In short if you want to anchor structural and CFD models to hardware you should use the actual hardware, if you have it available. Everything else is a side track.

    And on a general point. The SRB segemnts are thick metal with limited heat shielding on the outside. A lightning strike should not be that big a deal. How much wiring does this thing have?

    OTOH fi they're just marking time till programme cancellation this is more likely the last launch.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Jeff 10

    'Wasn't this called Apollo about 40 years ago?'

    No, Apollo was a get-to-the-Moon-first-no-matter-what project. There was no coherent idea of what to do after the lunar landing, especially after NASA started getting its budget cut by Congress. The original plan had been to proceed with a space station and the Space Shuttle before moving on to Mars by the mid 1908s.

    However, as we all know, the only bit that survived was the Space Shuttle, but that really only in name only after the US Air Force started laying down requirements which effectively crippled the project. By the time the Shuttle project was approved there wasn't enough money to build a station for it to visit; leaving NASA trapped in low orbit for a long time.

    Constellation is better thought through than that, the rockets are designed for more than one purpose and can support a variety of missions. It's just a shame that it has taken 40 years for NASA to effectively copy the Soviet missions planned for the N1 rocket. Let's just hope Ares 1 and 5 are more reliable than the N1.

  7. stizzleswick

    @Gene Cash

    Actually, solid propellants are a lot safer for crews than liquid. Unfortunately, they also produce a lot of environmentally undesirable residue, depending on the oxidising agent used. So far, solid fuel boosters have killed 0 astronauts (yes, I know, the Challenger desaster. But those astronauts were not killed by the boosters, but by the explosion of the liquid fuels the failing booster ignited while failing. That is, if they were not killed by the impact on water, as some maintain).

    Thing is, so far the Apollo programme does not have the world's best track record (and I'm leaving out Apollo 1 here) for safety.

    One should not blame NASA for having learned from their past failures in developing something hopefully more safe. I just blame them for wasting a huge lot of money on development that has (in part) already been done by private enterprise instead of licensing from Rutan, Arianespace, SpaceX et multi al, as just about any commercial undertaking with such a huge range of operations would do.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    "Actually, solid propellants are a lot safer for crews than liquid."

    That would depend on how you define safe and what liquids you had in mind. Safer than being on a Titan,yes. On Atlas or Saturn, no.

    Shutting down a liquid engine needs (in principle) the closing of 2 valves, which can be done at any time. Draining the propellant leaves you sitting at the top of a series of large empty tanks.

    Assuming you have designed in a way of shutting down your solid (most don't unless you count a shaped linear charge to split the casing) your sitting on a lump of oxidiser closely mixed with a fuel with either an igniton system stuck in the mix or still loaded with a lot of residual heat.

    It is true the high power rocket community handles solid fuel rockets safetly on a regular basis. These are nowhere near the size of an SRB.

    It is *no* accident that no nation has run a crewed programme (to date) on solids. SRB's were used on Shuttle because they were cheaper to develop. Solids can be more flexible than people think (they can be throttled, act as ramjet fuel and can have their thrust levels split into different sections for different parts of a mission).

    Solids are great for long term zero maintenance storage followed by immediate lauch where you don't want to worry about propellant sloshing in tanks to complicate guidance problems. IOW ideal for ICBM's and general guided weapons work

  9. Anonymous Coward

    NASA is like...

    ... an old man that used to be young, active and full of energy. It still think it can run a marathon but the reality is that it should leave it to the old but still spry Russians, the adult but stable ESA or the new kids the Indians. Someone should ground NASA before it hurts itself... more than it already has.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have often wondered...

    ...why NASA chose to locate its main launch site where the atmosphere has a famous propensity towards electrical activity.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    why NASA chose to locate its main launch site where the atmosphere has a famous propensity towards electrical activity.

    They wanted a *very* long stretch of ocean over which to fly stuff which might blow up in a cloud of falling hot debris if it did'nt work right and would leave mult-ton chunks of metal tank fallin gout of the sky if it did.

    Of course why knowing about it they haven't made more of an effort to improve Ares ability to launch on time is another matter.

  12. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    @ Wondering AX

    It's all to do with the Coriolis force being maximised by being close to the equator (while being still on US soil and close to water so you can discard stuff mid-air without killing people).

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