Another Milestone Met in the Development of Ares I
(MINNEAPOLIS, May 20) -- Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK), the prime contractor for the first stage of the Ares I launch vehicle, along with NASA, the U.S. Army, and the United Space Alliance (USA), successfully conducted a drop test of the three main parachutes that will slow the descent of the Ares I first stage booster, allowing it to be recovered, refurbished, and reused. The test was conducted at the Army's Yuma Proving Grounds.
The parachute test was conducted by dropping a 41,500-pound weight from a C-17 aircraft at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The three main test parachutes deployed at an altitude of about 4,500 feet and lowered the test weight to the desert floor.
"This test marks yet another successful milestone in the development of NASA's Ares I launch vehicle," said Charlie Precourt, ATK Space Systems vice president and general manager of Space Launch Systems. "The teamwork between NASA and the contractors ensures continued success in the development of the next generation crew launch vehicle."
The parachutes were designed and manufactured by USA at the Kennedy Space Center under a subcontract to ATK. The three main chutes are the largest of their type in the world, each measuring 150 feet in diameter. They are derived from the 136-foot diameter main parachutes that are currently used on the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB), which splash into the Atlantic Ocean after each shuttle launch. Ares I will similarly splashdown in the Atlantic.
Test objectives included determining the drag produced by the main parachutes while in a cluster, observing the parachute interaction in the cluster configuration, measuring individual parachute loads and behavior, and observing the deployment from the parachute bags.
The Ares I launch vehicle, which is planned to launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle, utilizes a first stage, five-segment reusable booster developed from the twin four-segment boosters used to launch the Shuttle. Due to the added weight of the extra segment, and the higher apogee reached by the Ares booster, the current parachute system needed to be enlarged. Similar to the Space Shuttle SRBs, the Ares first stage recovery system will consist of pilot and drogue chutes that reorient and decelerate the booster prior to deploying a cluster of three main parachutes.
To date, ATK and its partners have conducted three pilot chute tests, two drogue chute tests and two single main parachute tests. This is the first cluster parachute test for the Ares I program. Another significant milestone will be met this fall when the new parachute system is used operationally during the flight test of Ares 1-X, a full scale launch vehicle with an inert upper stage.
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