The test flight is scheduled to take place from the Kennedy LC-39B launch pad on the 31st of October (which is the expected date, but the test flight will definitely not take place before). The whole flight is expected to last for a mere two minutes.
The Ares I-X consists of the following four stages:
*First stage: live, four-segment solid rocket RSRB
*Second stage: dummy (future upper stage, J-2X motor)
*Third stage: dummy (future instrument package)
*Fourth stage: Orion Boilerplate with Launch Abort System (LAS)
Below are the Primary Objectives of the Ares I-X:
*Demonstrating control of a dynamically similar vehicle using control algorithms similar to those used for Ares I.
*Performing an in-flight separation/staging event between an Ares I-similar First Stage and a representative Upper Stage.
*Demonstrating assembly and recovery of an Ares I-like First Stage at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
*Demonstrating First Stage separation sequencing, and measuring First Stage atmospheric entry dynamics, and parachute performance.
*Characterizing the magnitude of integrated vehicle roll torque throughout First Stage flight.
The are, of course, secondary objectives, and these are:
*Quantifying the effectiveness of the first stage booster deceleration motors.
*Characterizing induced environments and loads on the vehicle during ascent.
*Demonstrating a procedure for determining the vehicle’s position to orient the flight control system.
*Characterize induced loads on the Flight Test Vehicle while on the launch pad.
*Assess potential Ares I access locations in the VAB and on the Pad.
*Assess First Stage electrical umbilical performance.
More than three years of hard work with the NASA and contractor team has brought us to this historic moment," said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager. "This flight test is a critical step in continuing our design process for the Ares vehicle and the first flight for the Constellation Program."
According to NASA-sources, The Ares I-X is wired with more than 700 sensors to gather data during the two-and-a-half minute flight test. The launch will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I crew launch vehicle. The data collected during the launch will allow NASA to gather critical data during ascent of the integrated Orion spacecraft and the Ares I rocket; and video B-roll of the Ares I-X will be available on NASA Television's Video File feed.
Ground operations includes activities such as vehicle stacking, integration, rollout, and liftoff, while ground systems include vehicle interfaces and lightning protection.
Several new procedures and hardware items have been developed for Ares I-X, including:
*A new, taller lightning protection system for Launch Complex 39B, which will be taller than the existing tower used for Space Shuttle operations.
*A Shuttle-era firing room has been updated with new computer hardware to support Constellation.
*A platform inside the Vehicle Assembly Building has been removed to allow the Ares I-X vehicle to fit and roll out.
*A new vehicle stabilization system (VSS), which will keep the vehicle from swaying on the launch pad after rollout. The VSS will use off-the-shelf hydraulic shock absorbers from the Monroe division of Tenneco, Inc.
*Environmental control systems (ECS) will regulate temperatures inside the USS and fifth segment simulator to keep the avionics and ground crew cool.
*Improved computer systems in Firing Room 1 at Launch Complex 39B.
*The ECS interfaces to the rocket will be “T-0” units, meaning they will disconnect from the launch vehicle automatically when the countdown reaches zero.
A pdf version of the Ares I-X configuration is available here.