NASA and industry engineers have successfully completed the first drop test of a drogue parachute for the Ares I rocket. The drogue parachute is designed to slow the rapid descent of the spent first-stage motor, cast off by the Ares I rocket during its climb to space.
The successful test is a key early milestone in development and production of the Ares I rocket, the first launch vehicle for NASA's Constellation Program that will send explorers to the International Space Station, the moon and beyond in coming decades. The drogue parachute is a vital element of the Ares I deceleration system and will permit recovery of the reusable first-stage motor for use on future Ares I flights.
Engineers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
Researchers dropped the 68-foot-diameter drogue parachute and its 36,000-pound load -- simulating the first-stage motor -- from a
The parachutes that serve as the Ares I recovery system are similar to the four-segment space shuttle boosters, but they have been redesigned to accommodate new requirements of the Ares I first stage. Dramatically larger and more powerful than the shuttle's boosters, the Ares I will have a five-segment solid rocket booster -- causing it to fall faster from a much higher altitude after separation from the launch vehicle.
During launch, the Ares I first-stage booster will separate from the upper stage at an elevation of 189,000 feet, approximately 126 seconds into flight. After freefalling to approximately 15,740 feet, the booster's nose cap will be jettisoned, releasing the pilot parachute, which in turn releases the drogue, slowing the stage's descent from 402 mph to 210 mph and maneuvering the booster into a vertical position. Finally, a cluster of three main parachutes, each 150 feet in diameter, will be deployed. The main parachutes continue to slow the booster to splashdown in the
Beginning in 2015, the Ares I rocket will launch the Orion crew capsule and six astronauts, and small pressurized cargo payloads, to the International Space Station. The Ares I rocket, an in-line, two-stage rocket configuration, will be powered by the first stage solid rocket motor for the first two minutes of launch.
ATK Launch Systems near Promontory,
Video of the drogue test will be available Monday, July 28, on NASA Television's Video File. For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:
For information about NASA's Constellation Program, visit: