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Saturday, 29 August 2009 18:43

NASA launches Discovery shuttle; stops Ares 1 countdown

The space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Florida at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, August 28, 2009, for its journey to the International Space Station. However, the first complete test firing of the new Ares 1 rocket was canceled after a power unit failed with only 20 seconds left in the countdown.

The STS-128 crew of the space shuttle Discovery is headed to the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver a new member to the ISS Expedition crew, along with supplies and equipment.

The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) is stored inside the cargo bay of Discovery.

Upon reaching the space station, it will be temporarily installed on the station so that storage racks, science racks, a freezer, new sleeping compartments, an air purification system, and a treadmill called COLBERT can be transferred to the station.

The COLBERT treadmill is named for comedian Stephen Colbert, after the name received the most votes in a NASA contest to name the station’s newest node (Node 3).

However, NASA decided to name the node Tranquility instead, deciding however to name the new treadmill COLBERT.

Three spacewalks, or extravehicular activities (EVAs) are planned for the thirteen-day mission.

The EVAs will involve installing a new ammonia storage tank (and placing the old into the shuttle’s cargo bay) and replacing experiments outside of the Columbus laboratory (which is provided by the European Space Agency).

The crew of STS-128 consists of commander Fred Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas and European
Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang.

NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, also a member of the STS-128 crew, will replace Tim Kopra as a member of the ISS Expedition 20 crew. Kopra will return home onboard Discovery.

Page two talks about the cancelation of the first complete firing test for the new Ares 1 rocket.

In related space news, the Ares 1rocket that is scheduled to be part of the new Constellation program (which will replace the retiring space shuttle fleet) had its first complete test firing canceled on Thursday, August 27, 2009.

The test was conducted near Promontory, Utah at the testing facility of the developing company (Alliant Techsystems, Inc. [ATK]) in Box Elder County.

The horizontal-positioned rocket test was canceled with only twenty seconds left in the countdown when an auxiliary motor in a power unit that controls hydraulic tilt in the nozzle of the rocket failed.

Apparently, the problem lies in a faulty value that supplies fuel to the rocket.

NASA engineer Pat Lampton stated, "One side functioned properly and came up to speed. The other side, we had an anomaly where the fuel did not get to the auxiliary power unit." [AP/Chicago Tribune: “ATK Rocket Test Firing Cancelled Over Hydraulic Issue”]

The first-stage 321-foot (100-meter) Ares 1 rocket uses 450,000 kilograms of chemical propellant (an equivalent weight of one million pounds) to take its Orion payload 48,000 meters (190,000 feet) into the air.

The first-stage then falls away for the second-stage to take over in order to propel the Orion capsule further into space.

Page three concludes.

Steve Cook, NASA Ares project manager, compared the Ares 1 rocket to NASCAR race cars.

Cook states, "When we light this off we'll get 3.6 million pounds of thrust [change of mass over time, or mass flow rate of exhaust]. What that means, that's about the equivalent of 26,000 NASCAR stock cars all lit up at the same time.” [AP/Chicago Tribune[

The five-segment Ares rocket will lift the manned Orion space capsule into space as part of the Constellation program, which is scheduled to become operational in the 2014-2015 timeframe.

Charlie Precount, ATK general manager for launch systems (and former NASA astronaut), stated, “This test is really important to the program, and it's a rare occurrence to have a problem with a booster. We should have this sorted out shortly." [AP/Chicago: "NASA contractor calls off test firing of moon rocket in US, citing hydraulic failure"]

Additional information on the Ares 1, as part of the NASA Constellation program, is found at Overview: Ares 1 Crew Launch Vehicle.

Currently, the fate of the Ares rocket is up in the air. The White House is conducting studies to see if the rocket should be scrapped in favor of more tried-and-true rockets, such as the Delta.

For additional information on this subject, please read the August 12, 2009 Space.com article "Dumping NASA's New Ares I Rocket Would Cost Billions."

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