Monday, October 26, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Building NASA's Huge, New Rocket

NASA's first flight test of its Ares I-X booster is only slated to last two minutes, but it represents the culmination of years of work by the rocket-minded ATK Space Systems in Utah and almost 1,000 other NASA workers and private contractors across 17 states.

To ensure that they see the fruits of their labor, technicians have installed more than 700 sensors on the $445 million Ares I-X test vehicle. That electronic swarm should provide engineers with a smorgasbord of flight data, and has led to a few jokes regarding the sensor-studded rocket.

"It's almost like flying a Christmas tree," said Trina Patterson, a spokesperson for ATK Space Systems, an aerospace company based in Magna, Utah. The rocket is set launch at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) Tuesday fromNASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ATK has good reason to want that data, because it produced the first rocket stage that plays the undeniable starring role in the upcoming launch. Its story represents just one out of many involved in the U.S. space agency's first small step back to the moon with its tallest rocket — the 327-foot (100-meter) Ares I-X — in more than 30 years.;_ylt=Al9FydrwZ5JPrCgK_ZNIJcWHgsgF;_ylu=X3oDMTNpcjYxZjRyBGFzc2V0A3NwYWNlLzIwMDkxMDI2L2JlaGluZHRoZXNjZW5lc2J1aWxkaW5nbmFzYXNodWdlbmV3cm9ja2V0BHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl9wYWdpbmF0ZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA2JlaGluZHRoZXNjZQ--

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