Engine Test for New NASA Rocket Targeted for Sept. 10
NASA's Ares I first-stage motor sits on ATK Space System's test stand in Promontory, Utah, awaiting its test firing, set for Aug. 27, 2009. The 154-foot solid rocket motor will produce heat two-thirds the temperature of the sun and its 12-foot-diameter cylinder will deliver 3.6 million pounds of thrust.
Credit: ATK

WASHINGTON ? A test firing of the first stage motor of NASA's new Ares I rocket will take place no earlier than Sept. 10 as NASA and its contractor, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), continue to investigate the glitch that forced the postponement of an earlier test, ATK said in a statement.

Engineers have ruled out the possibility that booster hardware or software was at fault during the aborted Aug. 27 test, and the focus of the investigation has shifted to ground test hardware, ATK said.

"Specific suspect circuitry and components have been identified and are being methodically investigated, utilizing a systematic, detailed fault tree approach," the company said. "The team is assessing removal and replacement plans for potential suspect items."

The $75 million test of the five-segment motor, based on the space shuttle's giant solid-rocket boosters, was aborted with 20 seconds left in the countdown Aug. 27 when a power system used to point the motor's nozzle failed. Engineers initially suspected a fuel valve in an auxiliary power unit on the booster had failed.

The test will take place at ATK's facilities in Promontory, Utah.

NASA?s Ares I rocket is a two-stage booster designed to use the ATK-built solid-fueled first stage and a liquid-fueled upper stage to launch the new Orion crew-carrying spacecraft into orbit. Orion, NASA?s replacement for its retiring space shuttles, is slated to begin operational flight no earlier than 2015. The first test launch of the Ares I rocket concept, called Ares I-X, is slated to lift off on Oct. 31.

A White House-appointed committee has reviewed NASA?s plans for future human spaceflight and is expected to submit a report to President Barack Obama?s administration in upcoming weeks.

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