NASA, ATK Unleash Ares Engine in Test Firing

Article written: 10 Sep , 2009
Updated: 10 Sep , 2009

In an impressive show of the power and might of the new Ares rocket, NASA and ATK Space systems successfully completed the first full-scale, full-duration test firing of the first stage motor for the potential successor to the space shuttle. The two-minute burn was powered with 22 million horsepower, and this first stage motor will generate up to 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or lifting power, at launch. Flames shot out twice as long as the rocket itself, at temperatures where steel boils and sand turns to glass — about 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit (2,480 degrees Celsius). 650 sensors sampled data from the test firing with rates up to 2000 samples a second. “We got an incredible amount of data today, ” Alex Priskos, first stage manager for Ares Projects, “and we were looking at 46 different objectives, but we should be able to understand every aspect of this motor, including strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately deliver the safest and most reliable motor possible.”

“It did exactly what we wanted to do and we got all the data we wanted,” Priskos said. “We will be looking at the data over several days and weeks, but I can tell you now it is consistent with what we were anticipating.”

For another video, view this “mirror” footage taken of the flame coming out of the rocket.

Engineers will use the measurements gathered from the test to evaluate thrust, roll control, acoustics and motor vibrations. This data will provide valuable information as NASA develops the Ares I and Ares V vehicles. Another ground test is planned for summer 2010.

Priskos and former astronaut Charlie Precourt, now with ATK said some of the data will be completely analyzed in a matter of days. “Others will literally take months. Today is a huge confirmation that we are on track to support the Constellation program where it is today and to meet the objectives of limiting the gap (between the shuttle and Orion),” Precourt said.

7 Responses

  1. Vedic says

    22 MILLION horse power! I wouldn’t want to strap that on my bicycle 🙂

  2. Kevin F. says


  3. Maxwell says

    Unleashed is the perfect term.
    They were planning to build these boosters for the shuttle decades ago, then challenger and politics put it on hold. So every shuttle since has been flying almost 20,000 lbs light.
    Now just as its being put to good use it looks like the politicians want in again… Ugh.

  4. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    They were planning to build these boosters for the shuttle decades ago, then challenger and politics put it on hold. So every shuttle since has been flying almost 20,000 lbs light.

    I don’t get this. If these longer boosters have stability problems because of length, were they really on the table before? (And would that have been a good thing?)

    Also, if the shuttle wasn’t up to spec, how come it flew? One reason for the problems with that system, as I understand it, was that a lot of sundry interests wanted this and that. If they really took something out of the plethora of requirements, it would then likely meant a lot for robustness and cost.

  5. HelloBozos says

    how much for the rocket made glass sculptuers???

  6. Lenard Lindstrom says

    Quite impressive. The prolonged “tail off” of the burn reminded me the Falcon 1 flight 3, where a slow to extinguish first stage engine caused a collision with the second stage during separation. The solution for Falcon 1 was to increase the wait between engine cutoff and stage separation. The solution for Ares I is more exciting, use lots of small solid fuel motors to accelerate the stages away from each other. It even inspired its own NASA web page.

  7. Astrofiend says

    I wish I was straddling that thing when it fired. Just sitting on top, riding the power, Dr. Strangelove-style.

    Hmmm – that sounds super-gay now that I think about it.

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