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Glenn Provides Key Support for Ares I-X Flight Test

Ares I-1 Flight Test
Model of Ares I-X at Kennedy Space Center Launch  Pad 39B

NASA’s Glenn Research Center has a rich history of leading rocket engine and propellant technology development. For nearly 30 years, Lewis (now Glenn) managed the design, construction and launch of the Centaur upper stage vehicles with the Atlas and Titan first stage vehicles. Glenn was also responsible for the management of the Agena upper stage vehicle. Their expertise in upper stage rocket boosters made significant contributions to Saturn V rockets, Apollo lunar landing missions and Space Shuttle missions.

Glenn was selected to play a significant role in the development of the Ares I Project. Within the Constellation Program, the Ares I two-stage launch vehicle will transport the crew aboard the Orion spacecraft to the International Space Station, the moon, Mars, and beyond.

The Ares team at Glenn is leading several areas in support of Ares I including building and testing flight hardware in support of the Ares I-X flight test, which is managed by Marshall Space Flight Center with additional support from Langley Research Center and Kennedy Space Center. The Constellation Program Office at Johnson Space Center provides overall flight test coordination. The flight hardware to be built by Glenn includes several vital components of the structural test model.

Scheduled for April 2009, Ares I-X will be the first test flight of the new U.S. launch vehicle system that will replace the Space Shuttle. The test flight objectives are focused on first stage flight dynamics, controllability, and separation of the first and upper stages.

Elements of Testing Performance

During this first flight, the performance and dynamics of the vehicle’s solid rocket booster (SRB) will be verified while it is flying for the first time in a “single stick” configuration. (This configuration is unique since the usual shuttle configuration includes two SRBs attached to either side of the external fuel tank.) The SRB will be flown through the first stage with four live segments. The fifth segment simulator will be flown empty, without propellant.

Ares I-X will also test the performance of the Upper Stage Mass Simulator, which will be similar in shape and equal in total mass to the actual upper stage. Since the actual upper stage hardware can not be produced in time for the flight test, the Upper Stage Mass Simulator will allow the booster to fly approximately the same trajectory through the first stage of flight.

Areas of Design, Manufacturing and Testing

Glenn is utilizing its in-house workforce and on-site facilities to design, manufacture and test the following components for the Ares I-X flight test vehicle:

  • Upper Stage Mass Simulator (including the Interstage or lower part of upper stage that allows the booster to separate from the rest of the vehicle after the booster flight ends)
  • Service Module
  • Spacecraft Adapter
  • Installation and test of avionics components provided by the Marshall-led Avionics Elements (instrumentation, electrical power, telemetry)


By performing the work in-house, Glenn’s design and manufacturing efforts will lower overall mission cost and save schedule time to help enable the project to achieve the April 2009 launch schedule.


Supporting significant Ares activities allows Glenn to make a valuable contribution to the next launch vehicle system, which will serve the U.S. space program for several decades. By working with other centers, they are helping to build better partnerships for collaboration on future development efforts. Additionally, the skills and abilities of Glenn personnel involved in Ares I-1 activities are sharpened as their efforts are focused on the goal of delivering the necessary hardware in time for the flight test.


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Tim Reckart
NASA Official: Jana VanHorn
Last Updated: November 3, 2010
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