I missed most of the Ares I-X rollout this morning because I was sleeping. What a poor excuse.
For the first time in 30 years, a new NASA rocket – Ares I-X – is rolling out to the launch pad. This rocket stands 327 feet tall, and dwarfs the Shuttle Rotating Structure at the launch pad (for comparison, the tip of the orange fuel tank on the shuttle is 184 feet high). NASA claims (and I believe them) that this is the world’s tallest rocket.
Their are two separate launchers to the Ares series of rockets that are designed to replace the Shuttles after their retirement next year. The Ares I is designed to launch a 4 person “Orion” capsule (once called “Apollo on steroids”). The bigger Ares V is supposed to be the heavy lift version, carrying the lunar module. After both rockets launch, the payloads would rendezvous with the Orion capsule in low Earth orbit, and then blast off to the moon.
Of course, this is all just hypothetical, as the government may cancel the whole thing because of technical difficulties and cost overruns. But if they do, then I will just cheer even more for the private company SpaceX, which is scheduled to launch their first Falcon9 rocket before the end of this year. SpaceX is the world’s first privately owned company that has successfully built and launched a liquid fueled rocket. Their CEO is the guy who created PayPal, among lots of other cool things.
Ooh, Ares I-X is at the rotating structure… I gotta go!