After waiting out weather and triboelectrification issues, the Arex I-X rocket thundered and crackled away from the launch pad at 11:30 am EDT with a successful (and beautiful) launch. The vehicle ran through the entire 2-minute test flight with no obvious problems or issues, ending with the stages separating and parachuting down to the Atlantic Ocean. This marks the first time a new vehicle has launched from Kennedy Space Center since the first space shuttle launch in 1981. “The only thing we were waiting for was weather,” said a jubilant test flight director Ed Mango to his team after the flight, “and that means all of you did fricking fantastic!”
“I can’t tell you how unbelievable that was,” said former astronaut Bob Cabana, who is now the director of Kennedy Space Center. “I got tears in my eyes. That was one of the most beautiful rocket launches I’ves seen. Given that three years ago this program was a blank piece of paper, it shows what we can do with common goal and common vision, I just couldn’t be more pleased.”
Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley said, “How impressive is that? You have all accomplished a great step forward for Constellation.”
Despite ongoing problems with the clouds and possible rain, the launch team worked closely with weather personnel to find a break in the clouds.
At the T+2 minute point in the flight, the upper stage simulator and first stage separated approximately 130,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. The unpowered simulator splashed down in the ocean, and the first stage was fired for a controlled ocean landing with parachutes so that it could be recovered.
Data collected from over 700 sensors on board the Ares I-X will help with the development of future missions as well as the design and modeling of future vehicles.
More images and video will be posted as they become available.