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As the incoming Obama administration considers whether to accelerate development of the Ares 1 rocket that will replace the space shuttle - or possibly change course and switch to a different system or even extend shuttle operations - NASA is pressing ahead with plans to launch a critical sub-orbital test flight to show off the new rocket and collect valuable engineering data.
The goals of the unmanned Ares 1-X mission are to help engineers resolve questions about launch vibration, roll control, aerodynamic forces and thermal effects, as well as test stage separation systems and recovery of the spent first stage using new 150-foot-wide parachutes.
Equally important, perhaps, the test flight will give American taxpayers their first real glimpse of the new Constellation program and the towering, slender rocket intended to replace the space shuttle after it is retired in 2010.
NASA completed the Ares I system requirements review in January 2007. Project design is to continue through the end of 2009, with development and qualification testing running concurrently through 2012. As of July 2009, flight articles are to begin production towards the end of 2009 for a first launch in June 2011. Since 2006 the first launch of a human has been planned for no later than 2014, which is four years after the planned retirement of the Space Shuttle.
Delays in the Ares I development schedule due to budgetary pressures and unforeseen engineering and technical difficulties have increased the gap between the end of the Space Shuttle program and the first operational flight of Ares I. The total estimated cost to develop the Ares I through 2015 has risen from $28 billion in 2006 to more than $40 billion in 2009.
Originally scheduled for first test flights in 2011, the Augustine Commission recently found that Ares I was unlikely to launch with a crewed payload before 2017 due to budget constraints.
Originally posted by Copernicus
They are launching the Ares 1 rocket.
Ares means "God of war".