Engine Test for New NASA Rocket Targeted for Sept. 10

Glitch Cancels NASA's First Moon Rocket Test Firing
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. (Image credit: ATK)

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

Engineershave ruled out the possibility that booster hardware or software was at faultduring the abortedAug. 27 test, and the focus of the investigation has shifted to ground testhardware, ATK said.

"Specificsuspect circuitry and components have been identified and are being methodicallyinvestigated, utilizing a systematic, detailed fault tree approach," thecompany said. "The team is assessing removal and replacement plans forpotential suspect items."

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

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

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

A WhiteHouse-appointed committee has reviewedNASA?s plans for future human spaceflight and is expected to submit areport to President Barack Obama?s administration in upcoming weeks.

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