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NASA’s Next Launch Vehicle

A look at the Ares rocket at Kennedy Space Center.

Last week, I traveled to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, to see preparations for Ares 1-X, the first test flight for NASA’s next family of launch vehicles called Ares. These rockets will replace the aging space shuttles and will eventually return humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The purpose of Ares 1-X is to gather flight data for the design and development of Ares 1, which will fly in 2015.

Technology Review will feature the Ares 1-X mission (scheduled for August) in the July/August edition of the magazine. But I wanted to share a few amazing photos from my trip. I also got some shots of Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launch pad; it’s serving as a backup and potential rescue vehicle for the Atlantis launch scheduled for May 11–the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Space Shuttle Endeavour on Launch Pad 39B.

The three huge towers surrounding the launch pad are the lightning suppression system built for Ares.




















The small nets shown in the background here connect to a rail similar to the one seen in the foreground. The nets would be used if astronauts need to evacuate the launch pad in an emergency: they hop in little baskets and slide into the nets.
This is the crawler-transporter. It carries the shuttles, and will also carry Ares rockets, to the launch pad. Since the crawler travels at just one mile per hour, the trip usually takes six to eight hours.
These “stacks” will make up the rocket used for the Ares 1-X test launch.
This view is from 16 stories up–the height that each stack will be lifted before being stacked, one on top of the other, for assembly.

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