Bolden and Garver Expected to Be On Hand for Ares 1-X Flight

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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver are planning to attend the unmanned suborbital test flight of the Ares 1-X rocket, targeted for Oct. 27 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., according to NASA officials.

The test is a major early milestone for NASA’s Constellation program, a five-year-old effort to build new rockets and spacecraft capable of returning humans to the Moon by 2020.

The Ares 1-X test shot comes as Bolden and Garver mull the findings of a blue-ribbon panel tasked with determining a range of options for NASA’s manned spaceflight future. The panel, led by former Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine, included completion of the Ares 1 rocket in two of the five broad options detailed in its report. But the other options would scrap Ares 1 and make substantial changes to other aspects of the Constellation program, including dropping the Moon in favor of other destinations.

Although the Ares 1-X test flight is targeted for Oct. 27, NASA does not plan to set an official launch date until after an Oct. 23 flight readiness review at Kennedy.

The Ares 1-X vehicle consists of a four-segment solid-rocket booster, dummy upper stage and mockup of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. The actual Ares 1 would use a more powerful five-segment solid-rocket booster and a liquid-fueled upper stage to loft the Orion into orbit.

NASA expects data collected from the Ares 1-X flight to confirm the vehicle is safe and stable in flight.

“With the arrival of Ares 1-X at the pad, this milestone demonstrates NASA’s world-class ability to conceptually design, build and process a new launch vehicle in just under four years,” Bob Ess, mission manager for Ares 1-X at Kennedy, said in an Oct. 20 news release. “Nearly 2,000 NASA and contractor employees located throughout the United States worked together in an unprecedented fashion, resulting in the new vehicle ready for flight.”

NASA officials decided Oct. 19 to push back the target launch date for the Space Shuttle Atlantis to Nov. 16 in order to give the Ares 1-X team an additional opportunity to liftoff.

Ares 1-X has a four-hour window each day between Oct. 27 and Oct. 29.