Tuesday, August 31, 2010

NASA and ATK conducted a full-scale test of five-segment solid rocket motor at 11:27 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, Aug. 31st

A decent overview, one of the first videos posted of the test.

A civilian video, possibly the most impressive footage simply because things like this look better from a distance. The talking dude is annoying, but the birds flying off in fear are pretty cool.

A long video showing the test process from T- 5 to well after burnout. Note the probe that is inserted into the motor soon after burnout; this is a "quench tool." Why is it important to do this?

"NASA and Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) conducted a full-scale test of a five-segment, first-stage solid rocket motor at 11:27 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, Aug. 31. The test at the ATK Aerospace Systems test facility in Promontory, Utah assessed motor performance at low temperatures.

The static firing of the solid motor, designated Development Motor-2, lasted two minutes. This is the most heavily instrumented solid rocket motor in NASA history, with 53 test objectives that will be measured using more than 760 instruments. The motor was built as an element of NASA's Constellation Program. It is the largest and most powerful solid rocket motor designed for flight and is highly transferable to future heavy-lift vehicle designs.

The motor design is almost identical to another development motor tested last year. However, DM-2 will be cooled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for this full-duration firing to verify the performance of new materials. After more testing, the first-stage solid rocket motor will be certified to fly at temperature ranges between 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit."

It is pleasing (but not that much of a shock) to see this motor work properly. I have always been a strong advocate for the use of solid boosters for the first stage of any large rocket. The fuel may cost more (much more), and the ISP is certainly lower (much lower), but the simplicity as a whole allows for cost reductions. The expense of rocket motors is mostly in RnD, and liquids are far more complex during this part of the process. It appears easy to scale solid motor technology up, either by using a cluster configuration, or simply creating massive motors. 10 meters is not out of the question, particularly if produced in the monolithic method, and on site. In any event, this is most exciting simply because it shows progress towards the Ares 1 and Ares V rockets. If they are eventually produced (and that is a HUGE if at this point, with Obama and his dead end plans for manned space exploration) it would be a step forward in launch capability. It is my hope that we can move past the shuttle era and return to capable, expendable launch systems. These rockets will be safe for the crew, less expensive than the shuttle system overall, and carry more payload. Missions to Mars, 16 meter space telescopes... these things need a rocket. And if we want any of them to happen, we need to build the rocket first. No one builds a payload waiting for a rocket anymore. That is so 1960s.

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