Arizona system testing for Ares I

by Chris Bergin

Initial testing of the parachute recovery system for the Ares I launch vehicle has been deemed successful, following tests in Yuma, Arizona – with further evaluations on all parachute systems to follow over the next two years.

Utilizing a drop test vehicle, engineers from NASA and several contractor companies are using the US Army desert range for the testing of the Ares I recover systems.

Associated L2 resources listed at the end of this article. **Ares I Forum**

The series of tests are being conducted to aid the design and development of the parachute recovery system for the first stage booster of the Ares I CLV (Crew Launch Vehicle), ahead of the debut manned flight in 2012.

The pilot parachute, measuring approximately 11.5 feet in diameter, was packed and mounted inside a 1,500-pound drop test vehicle, approximately 12 inches in diameter and 12 feet long.

‘The test vehicle included a pointed front end and tail fins, providing the weight and velocity required to simulate the desired test load experienced by the parachute during deployment and descent,’ noted MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center) information.

‘In addition, a comprehensive array of instruments and a data recorder were mounted inside the drop test vehicle to record real-time data, such as speed, weight on the parachute lines and pressure during descent.’

The Ares I first stage booster Recovery System Development Test Program will last approximately two years.

Six additional pilot parachute tests will be conducted through 2008. Drogue parachute testing is scheduled to begin in summer 2007, and will consist of approximately seven tests. Testing of the main parachutes will begin in early 2007 and will consist of both individual and cluster tests.

Along with MSFC, engineers from Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston; ATK Launch Systems of Brigham City, Utah; and United Space Alliance of Houston were present for the first two drop tests of the recovery system’s pilot parachute. Testing began back in August – with all testing deemed successful thus far.

‘These milestones are instrumental steps towards carrying out America’s vision for space exploration,’ said Mike Kahn, vice president, ATK Space Launch Systems. ‘Our hardware development efforts and successful tests will help keep the Ares I program on track for its first crew launch early next decade.’

The tests involved an Army UH-1 Huey helicopter and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter being used to lift the drop test vehicle above the test range, before releasing it from an elevation of 10,000 feet.

After release, the pilot parachute is deployed, with a second parachute used to slow the vehicle down to protect instruments that measured the rate of descent.

‘The pilot parachute is the first element to be deployed in a three-stage parachute recovery system being designed and developed by NASA for the Ares I first stage booster,’ added MSFC information.

‘The system, which includes a pilot, drogue and three main parachutes, is derived from the space shuttle’s solid rocket booster (SRB) recovery system.’

The Ares I booster will separate from the vehicle after around 130 seconds – at an elevation of 195,000 feet. At approximately 15,000 feet, the booster’s nose cap is jettisoned, releasing the pilot parachute and beginning the recovery system deployment sequence that will deliver the booster to a safe water splashdown and recovery.

As the pilot parachute deploys, this in turn releases the 65-foot diameter drogue parachute, which is used to maneuver the booster into a vertical position and slow its descent. Once the booster is slowed, a cluster of three main parachutes, each 150 feet in diameter, is deployed. The main parachutes continue to slow the booster to splashdown.

The pilot, drogue and main parachutes for the Ares I recovery system are larger and stronger than those used for the space shuttle boosters. This is because the more powerful – and much heavier – Ares I five-segment booster falls faster from a much higher altitude after separation from the launch vehicle.

The US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground is providing the test range; support facilities and equipment, such as ground-to-air video recording, photography and radar tracking; and the aircraft and flight crew.

Other L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: Ares I Escape System Presenation. Ares I-1 Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. ARES I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. Latest Ares I and Ares V baseline Configuration image and data. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-1: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. Constellation news updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV. 90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. CLV TIM Meeting Information. CLV/CaLV Infrastructure, Timelines and Information.

CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Constellation SRR updates. CLV Stick – Troubleshooting/Alternatives/Updates. New CEV Images (include abort mode). Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.

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