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Parachute failure before splashdown left Ares 1-X booster badly dinged

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Damaged Ares I-X boosterNASA’s launch of the Ares 1-X test rocket Wednesday was a success—but, as it turns out, a qualified one. The rocket’s first booster stage, which splashed down in the ocean as planned six minutes after launch, was found to be significantly dented when divers reached the mammoth cylinder to prep it for retrieval.

Ares 1-X mission manager Bob Ess told reporters Friday that parachute malfunction was the culprit in the damage, according to Universe Today. The failure of one of the booster’s three main parachutes, as well as possible collateral damage to another chute, resulted in a hard landing in the water, Ess explained.

But Ess downplayed the significance of the glitch. The people responsible for the parachutes "are not worried about it," he said. "This is all part of doing a test flight, so the team is still very elated."

But Spaceflight Now notes that the "test of the new parachute system was one of several major objectives of the Ares 1-X test flight." The planned Ares 1 crew-launch rocket, for which Ares 1-X is a test vehicle, will be more difficult to ease back to Earth for recovery than, say, comparatively lightweight space shuttle boosters. "The full-scale parachute system used for [Ares 1-X's] first flight test was designed to handle the heavier weight of the Ares 1 and its fall from a higher altitude," Spaceflight Now explains.

Photo credit: NASA

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  1. 1. jaqcp 4:56 pm 10/30/2009

    "We screwed up, but remain elated!" Whe you are too big to fail, failure is still a victory!

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  2. 2. billsmith 6:16 pm 10/30/2009

    When you’ve been instructed to build car for $1,000, it’s not particularly surprising or discouraging if the windows fall out now and then; you’re just glad the car actually runs.

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  3. 3. Solarmax 6:39 pm 10/30/2009

    @billsmith…but it would be nice if the brakes worked as planned. But we’re still elated.

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  4. 4. Solarmax 6:40 pm 10/30/2009

    @billsmith…but it would be nice if the brakes worked as planned. But we’re still elated.

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  5. 5. Michael F 7:23 pm 10/30/2009

    I think NASA gets a lot of crap that they don’t deserve. Their purpose is one that is underfunded by the government and misunderstood and under appreciated by the public.

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  6. 6. bvseattle 11:10 pm 10/30/2009

    Even in the auto industry new car designs are smashed up during the testing phase.

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  7. 7. lithiumdeuteride 11:48 pm 10/30/2009

    Using designs recycled from the shuttle is a dumb idea, since they all have to be re-analyzed, re-qualified, and re-tested for their new role. A role, I might add, for which they are rather sub-optimal. They aren’t the money-savers they were advertised to be.

    Ares should have been a completely new design. Unfortunately, NASA can’t accomplish the task set before them with their current budget (about $19 billion for 2010). Meanwhile, the US military gets about $500 billion, while contributing nothing to scientific knowledge. Instead, they just built more advanced fighter jets which, while pretty cool, really have no purpose besides killing people.

    That being said, it’s good to see NASA flying some new hardware, even if it really isn’t new.

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  8. 8. Michael Hanlon 12:09 am 10/31/2009

    Class, today we will discuss the failure of Pinpernia Pi Prime Probability Production Plant’s Phase Plenty plan pushing profits. We know that led to the collapse of all Pinpernian enterprises. In this case it was the inability of their AIs to predict adequately for the Rigel 7 news company what they had touted as proof of assessment programs. The AIs had predicted that the Sol eforts would bear fruit and we know it didn’t Let’s watch a clip from 10/28/08 sol standard time: Roll it.
    …"And this just in to Rigel 7 News at 15: Scientists have determined that the life in the Sol system is not intelligent. They attribute the noted behaviour to "smart mimicing". Examination of shattered debris found on the third planet’s moon shows that they don’t comprehend the concept of survivable landing. Gabrukkcik says, "They may know how to get there, but they don’t know how to stop".
    .Tune in at 17 when we will have our panel of AI’s download a full analysis."
    All kidding aside, Rocketry’s been around twenty-five years longer than parachute technology, so parachutes need some time to catch up in reliability.

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  9. 9. Frosty46 4:00 am 10/31/2009

    Dip shits waste billions on toy rockets while the planet overpopulates itself to DEATH!

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  10. 10. dbtinc 7:57 am 10/31/2009

    The Romans had the Coliseum, we have NASA. The difference? The entertainment of the masses versus the toys of the few.

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  11. 11. doug 1 9:27 am 10/31/2009

    Seems to be indicative of the complex and relatively fragile state of our space developement program, bogged down in old concepts and secure with in "the box"; the same box that innovation suggests we need to think beyond. And it is old thinking; that balistic missiles designed 60 years ago to carry warheads modified so that their acceleration is not so fast or violent as to harm the delicate organs of the naked apes which will be riding along, holding on for dear life, are the best option for reaching orbit, is an idea whose time has come to be put to rest.
    We need a new, low cost way to get men and materials into space if we want the doorway, which is now only slightly ajar, to open enough so that we can tap into the vast potential of energy and resources that abound out beyond the gravity and atmosphere of the planet. What’s ironic is that we already know how, but with the current program, there’s no money left over. Ironic, ain’t it?
    Bert Rutan’s (among others) concept of a special human transport system is great for delicate payloads to low earth orbit, but doesn’t carry massive materials like fuel, water, heavy components. An electromagnetic powered mass-driving rail gun, built out in the empty deserts of the southwest, would be an ideal prospect to deliver containers of materials that can withstand high-g’s. Launched every few minutes using electricity from locally procured solar panels, leaving no emissions, and guided by on-board robotic/remote controlls to be assembled in low earth orbit and then, now that there’s plenty of inexpensive fuel in the total payload, the assembled material can be considered a platform boosted into a geosynchronous orbit where at last a genuinely serious effort at creating the space infrastructure can begin.
    Of course it would be expensive but consider that this latest rocket alone consumed almost $500,000,000, and yet will do little more than extend the status quo, one has to wonder just what the bean counters think of that if our goals are going to be taken seriously. Space base solar could end the carbon fuel conundrum and provide clean energy. Or consider the following: the value of the metals (platinum, nickel, cobalt to name just a few) in even a modest sized space rock could easily be in the tens of billions. As has been said many times; "it’s raining soup". Why do we spend so much designing a funnel connected to a spigot which pours into a sieve, when what we really need is a bucket. It’s time for space exploration to include the idea of space investment and exploitation.

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  12. 12. rlb2 12:46 pm 10/31/2009

    If they had the extra protection of the "Skyclimber" this may have been averted.

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  13. 13. rlb2 12:46 pm 10/31/2009

    If they had the extra protection of the "Skyclimber" this may have been averted.

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  14. 14. hotblack 2:11 pm 10/31/2009

    Wow. Buncha geniuses on here…

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  15. 15. j.quasimodo 4:53 pm 10/31/2009

    Doing something new has risks. That’s why you test things, to see what breaks. The Soviets had some spectacular failures but were able to hush them up for a long time. We have our failures on the evening news.

    It was our congress that voted for the funding, our (former) president that set the direction. We voted them into office. I think a more important question might be: why do we send meatware up there anyway? The space program has made spectacular discoveries but none that really required people in space.

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  16. 16. Michael Hanlon 2:59 am 11/1/2009

    doug1, Flesh and bone aren’t all that experience the ‘g’ forces involved in rail gun launches. Think they are only good for solid masses and you’re starting to catch on. You mention the lifting of two things to orbit using your gun: Equipment and fuel.
    .Equipment first. many accuse the military of spending way too much on their toys. Well, truth is, that’s how much they cost. Every component that goes into one of our smart weapons or air launched missles or just missless, gets the "launch from a gun" test. They are required to withstand 1.5 to 2 thousand g’s, that’s right, THOUSANDS. That process loses about 75% of your manufacture run. Then the 25% that passed have a high failure rate from having been through the test. After thermal cycling and vacuum /altitude tests 20% fail and you’e left with 5 from your original 100 that on paper should work. But there is always the fact that the next bang on it will break it. And you have to encase that equipment in a shell to make the rigors ot high velocity atmospheric travel survivable, so, mounting in that capsule will entail a failure rate also.
    .Second: Fuel. Those g forces are felt by liquids and gasses too. Most become highly explosive under pressure. The more you compress it , the more dangerous it becomes. In fact, some gasses explode on their own under pressure. Look up how diesel engines work and after that lesson, I think you’ agree with me that shooting rocket fuel out of a gun won’t work.

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  17. 17. lamorpa 8:32 am 11/1/2009

    Interpretations of Nostradamus’ writings predict the shuttle will crash or not crash every 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 16th, or 18th flight. It might be true!

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  18. 18. Michael Hanlon 2:43 am 11/3/2009

    Dear President O’Bama,
    .We need you to apply you tremendous ability to lead to this problem of NASA. JFK started it from the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Departments when he needed to get to the Moon and back. Well, now we aren’t limited to just that effort in space and the organization tasked to juggle all the projects of today wasn’t designed to do so. Its mission was a single goal not dozens.
    .We need a new program. One that more closely aligns us with our fellow nations and their efforts to develop the heavens. One that doesn’t remove NASA from the picture but reduces its scope so it can reliably perform its duties. I’m sure a hit will be felt, but it will be the hit of their best minds sitting behind new drawing boards.
    .May I request there be a task declared to capture an asteroid, any asteroid not the specific one many fear, and bring that crop of the vacuum of space to our south forty, and plant it in an orbit that would act as a ferry system between the Earth and Moon running on a 14 day Moon to Moon schedule. By building one ship to go get a rock, we save the monies for dozens of ships to do Earth to Moon runs only.
    .I think the youth of this coming generation will take pride in and hope to , contribute to the effort. Thank you, Michael Hanlon <xox>

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