NASA Poised for 2nd Try to Launch Landmark Rocket Test
As the sun rises over Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rotating service structure and the arms of the vehicle stabilization system have been retracted from around the Constellation Program's 327-foot-tall Ares I-X rocket, resting atop its mobile launcher platform, for an Oct. 27, 2009, launch try.
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA will try a second time to launch its experimental Ares I-X test rocket Wednesday, after cloudy weather and minor setbacks foiled a first attempt.

The $445 million rocket is the first of its kind - a prototype of the vehicle NASA plans to carry people to orbit and the moon - though it is based on space shuttle and other earlier hardware. The test launch, slated to lift off at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), is intended to study how well this rocket design works by gathering data from over 700 onboard sensors.

Repeated attempts to launch the rocket Tuesday were thwarted by clouds, strong winds, and the risk of a phenomenon called "triboelectrification," which can be created when a rocket passes through clouds and triggers static electricity that could interfere with the vehicle's instruments. Additionally, an errant cargo ship that had strayed into the danger zone over which the rocket was planned to fly stalled one launch attempt Tuesday morning. Other events, like a stuck sock-like instrument cover, which crews had trouble pulling off the rocket, further plagued liftoff plans.

While NASA had a four-hour window starting at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) to try to loft the rocket, conditions never lined up and mission managers gave up for the day at around 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT).

"We had some opportunities, we just didn't get there - the weather didn't cooperate," launch director Ed Mango said after calling off Tuesday's attempt.

Weather conditions Wednesday are expected to be slightly better than Tuesday's were, with a 60 percent chance of clear skies. NASA has stringent weather requirements for this flight since it is an untested rocket configuration, and cameras need a clear view of the launch to take useful data for analysis.

The 327-foot (100-meter) tall rocket is slated for a two-minute fact-finding flight that will reach a maximum altitude of about 150,000 feet, or 28 miles (46 km), after which it will land in the Atlantic Ocean and boats will collect its spent first stage for study. will provide full coverage of NASA's Ares I-X test flight with Staff Writer Clara Moskowitz in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Managing Editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for live launch coverage and mission coverage. Live coverage begins at 5:00 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT).