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US marks Ares milestone in next chapter of manned space flight

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 11, 2008
NASA has taken a giant leap in the next stage of manned space flight with Wednesday's successful completion of a final step in the design process for the Ares I rocket, on course to launch in 2015, and put Americans back on the moon by 2020.

Ares I will launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle, its crew of four to six astronauts, and small cargo payloads to the International Space Station.

Replacing the familiar space shuttle, Ares will be used for missions to further explore the moon and beyond in coming decades as part of NASA's Constellation program.

The design review, the first such milestone in more than 35 years for a US rocket that will carry astronauts to space, assessed whether all components of the rocket, the vehicle and its supporting systems meet NASA requirements for all parts to work together.

"This is a critical step for development of the Ares I rocket," said Rick Gilbrech, associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.

"Completing the preliminary design review of the integrated vehicle demonstrates our engineering design and development are on sound footing," added Gilbrech.

This process, he said, is "taking us another step closer to building America's next mode of space transportation."

The review, conducted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, included more than 1,100 technicians from seven NASA field centers and multiple industry partners.

"Risk assessment is a very important part of the process," said Steve Cook, manager of the Ares I rocket at Marshall Space Flight Center there.

"For example, we identified thrust oscillation -- vibration in the first stage -- as a risk. In response to this issue, we formed an engineering team. The team conducted detailed analyses and reviewed previous test data, and then recommended options to correct the problem."

Identifying and resolving risk is a vital part of the development process, said Cook.

"This will be one of the safest, most affordable and highest performing rocket engines ever built, and testing is critical as we begin preparation for future flights," he said.

Boeing sibsidiary ATK Launch Systems and Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne are Ares 1 leading manufacturers. It was expected to cost NASA at least three billion dollars a year in 2009 and 2010.

For more information about the Ares rocket, visit http://www.nasa.gov/ares

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Pratt And Whitney Rocketdyne To Further Test J-2X
Canoga Park CA (SPX) Sep 10, 2008
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