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With NASA’s announcement that aerospace firm Lockheed Martin will build its shuttle successor Orion, the agency is forging ahead with a test flight plan for the rockets to launch those future vehicles spaceward.
NASA is targeting April 2009 to test the first stage of its Ares 1 rocket, a five-segment booster evolved from its four-segment solid rocket boosters (SRBs) used to launch space shuttles into orbit. The rocket will launch astronaut crews into orbit to either dock at the International Space Station (ISS) or press onward to the Moon – though the latter would require rendezvous with a lunar lander and Earth Departure Stage launched by the planned heavy-lift Ares 5 rocket.
Known as Ares 1-1, the first stage test will launch an inert – but instrumented – second stage and mock-Orion vehicle to suborbital heights to evaluate the SRB’s thrust and roll control.