NASA details Ares launch pad timeline

by Chris Bergin

Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center will begin its reversion back to being a launch pad to the moon next year, despite its requirement to be ready to host one more Shuttle mission requirement.

39B has to remain in Shuttle hands, as part of the LON (Launch On Need) that will accompany STS-125’s mission to service Hubble in 2008, but construction of the three 600 foot Lightning Protection Towers will begin in earnest next summer.
Huge amounts of VSE releated insider news and presentations are available for download on L2. See list at the end of this article.


**ARES V / Mars Transport Vehicle (MTV) LIVE UPDATE PAGES**

The latest estimate for the Hubble servicing mission is September 2008, which – as with all future flights of the Shuttle after next month’s STS-116 – will launch from Pad 39A. However, the rescue Shuttle will sit on Pad 39B, on standby as the LON flight.

That rescue Shuttle will be the next scheduled orbiter to fly on the manifest (yet to be determined) – and once the stand-down for LON requirement is given, it will carry out only the third ever ‘rollaround,’ where the stack will rollback off Pad 39B, head down to the fork in the crawlerway, and then move forward to Pad 39A for its primary mission. That has only ever happened before for Shuttles on STS-35 and STS-61.

Constellation will then take over Pad 39B immediately after the LON requirement is stood down, allowing for the modifications to start in earnest on the pad, ahead of the 2009 test flight of Ares I-1 – the first of up to four test flights of the four segment plus dummy stage ‘stick’. Currently, the Constellation Manifest calls for two test flights and four launch abort tests.

Originally, Constellation was to take over Pad 39B on April 1, 2007, but that was officially reverted by a recent PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) meeting, that restored the pad to Shuttle funding for the Hubble rescue mission.

Following the decision to keep Pad 39B available for the STS-125 LON flight, Constellation have worked on a plan that will allow some of the modifications to take place to the launch complex that will not impact on Shuttle operations. This has reduced the overall impact to just six months for Constellation work.

Kicking off the morphing of 39B will be the construction of three giant Lightning Protection Towers. These towers will begin to rise out of the ground at 39B next July, and are required given the ‘clean pad’ design for Ares, which differs from the Shuttle’s protection system that is a permanent fixture on top of the current FSS (Fixed Service Structure) – which will be dismantled for Ares.

The ‘clean pad’ also followed Saturn V heritage, meaning the supporting structures such as the LUT (Launch Umbilical Tower) will be a fixture on the Mobile Launch Platform – as opposed to being a fixture at the pad complex.

Work will also take place in the giant Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) – where modifications will take place for Ares I-1 stacking at the latter part of 2008. Video and images of that stacking process for Ares I-1 is available on L2.

One of the recent ‘cool’ highlights of the modification plans for the launch pad is the construction of a ‘rollercoaster’ Emergency Egress System (EES) – which will begin around September 2008.

Projected to take place ahead of the Hubble mission will be the LH2 (Liquid Hydrogen) Bulk Propellant Storage Tank overhaul, which is expected to start around February 2008.

Around the same time, modifications will take place on MLP-1 – a current Shuttle Mobile Launch Platform – to support the Ares I test flights. This will be a phased modification, with the eventual change to a ML (Mobile Launcher) – and then the construction of a ‘super crawler’ able to carry the huge weight of the Ares V.

L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation:  Ares I-1 Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-1 timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I extra solids graphics and info. Ares I troubleshooting latest. 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. Escape System Trade Study Presenation.

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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