Skip to Content

NASA Aborts Critical Rocket Test

The first full-scale test of the booster for NASA’s Ares I rocket was called off because of a power failure.
August 27, 2009

Today NASA was supposed to conduct the first full-scale test of the motor for the first stage of its future space rocket, Ares I. The test, at NASA partner Alliant Techsystems, was in Utah at 3:00 P.M. EST and was intended to last two minutes. The goal was to obtain data on thrust, roll control, acoustics, and vibrations to aid engineers in designing Ares I. But the test was scrubbed 20 seconds before ignition of the 154-foot motor, which was anchored to the ground horizontally. The problem: failure of a power unit that drives hydraulic tilt controls for the rocket’s nozzle, according to a local report. The static firing test of the motor has not yet been rescheduled.

The five-segment solid rocket motor for Ares I. Credit: NASA

While nothing appears to be wrong with the rocket itself, the failure is a setback. The Ares rocket is part of NASA’s Constellation Program–a plan for new manned flights to the moon and possibly to Mars and beyond, the first of which is scheduled to launch in 2015. A test flight rocket, Ares I-X, will take place later this year.

The failure also comes at a crucial time for NASA. The independent panel charged with reviewing the future of U.S. human spaceflight is preparing to present its recommendations to the Obama administration in less than a week. One option is to simply abandon the program, which has been over budget and behind schedule.

The new motor is a 12-foot-wide solid rocket booster. Its design is derived from the space shuttle, which uses two four-segment solid rocket boosters, and it will burn the same specially formulated propellant. The added fifth segment will allow Ares I to lift more weight and reach a higher altitude.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.