Chase Plane Footage of Ares I-X Flight

Here’s some great additional footage from the Ares I-X flight taken from a chase plane, which shows the entire flight, including booster separation and parachute deploy — and the problems that happened with the parachutes. The video was taken from a Cessna Skymaster aircraft positioned approx. 10 nautical miles away from the vehicle at an altitude of 12,000 feet. The videographer used a gyro-stabilized high-definition camera system mounted to the outside of the aircraft to capture this spectacular footage which provides extremely valuable engineering data, and imagery of the recovery sequence in rarely-seen detail. This provides NASA with additional critical data from vehicle ascent, booster deceleration and parachute deploy.

The parachute sequence plays out just as Ares I-X manager Bob Ess described it at a press briefing last Friday. He said all three chutes initially deployed as planned: pilot chute, then drogue chutes, then the three main chutes came out and partially deployed to a 50% open condition to avoid shock to the material. But at that point one of the mains failed and basically became a streamer. Ess said it appeared the lines went slack, which would be indicative of a problem with the riser lines and not the parachute material. Then a second chute may have gotten damaged from the bad “streamer” parachute and the second chute didn’t open all the way. So instead of coming down on three parachutes, it only had one and a half. “So that caused the booster to hit the water at a higher speed than expected, with more horizontal velocity, so booster slapped down pretty hard which caused damage on the booster.”

8 Replies to “Chase Plane Footage of Ares I-X Flight”

  1. Wow. Great footage! It also clearly shows how the chute failed to deploy. It looks like the angle of impact may have had a big role in the damage.

  2. That was amazing footage. Seeing the SRB falling back and tumbling. At around 3:53 you can see what look like flairs from the top end of the rocket. Was that from passing mach 1 as it slowed down?

  3. Some amazing footage of this test flight. After reading this article, I was still curious if this plane (and stabilized camera gear inside) was owned and/or operated by NASA itself to document the flight, or was this taken by a skilled, private videographer and supplied to NASA for analysis? I would assume it’s official NASA footage, but the article doesn’t make it clear. Just curious 🙂

  4. Seeing that thing falling to earth at such speed and for so long makes you realise how high up it was. I was fascinated by the sputtering engines, is that just left over solid fuel burning or is there some other reason?

  5. Jon- Yes, it is official NASA footage, and what the mission managers used to find out what happened to the parachutes, as the on-board camera quit working.

  6. Wow – they absolutely nailed the positioning of the chase plane. Looks like one of the chute tethers snapped or let go or something, which then whipped up and sliced the second chute up.

  7. The flares must be left over fuel. SRBs don’t stop burning till all the fuel is gone.

    I think the chutes deployed after the booster was stabilized by the small chute in a more-or-less vertical position.

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