Friday, November 2, 2007

Nothing up my sleeve...

The Emperor's minions made smoke and fire in the Utah desert yesterday. What they did do was successfully fire a four segment reusable solid rocket motor. The two-minute test provided important information for continued launches of the shuttle. What they claimed, but what the test did not do, was provide realistic data for the development of the Ares-1 rocket.

The four segment solid differs from its Ares successor in several key ways. First and foremost, Ares-1 is a five segment booster. Because it is loaded with more propellant, but has the same nozzle size as its four segment cousin, engineers must change the way the propellant is burned so as to keep the same flow of stuff coming out of the tailpipe. You can only push so much water through a hose of a fixed diameter, after all. The additional segment and change in propellant configuration, in its grain and interior layout, will make the Ares-1 booster a brand new rocket.

Soon you'll be hearing about the upcoming Ares-1x test flight. Its a shuttle four segment SRB past its shelf life date with an inert fifth segment added on top. Bolted on top is an inert, metallic second stage and CEV boilerplate. No fifth segment, no test of the real Ares-1 first stage. No fuel-filled second stage sloshing around on top, no test of the flight dynamics. Since this in no way physically or dynamically resembles a real Ares-1, what is the point of this test?

The only thing it will validate is that the ground system can light up an Ares-1-like rocket on the pad. Everything that happens downrange from that is, dare we say it, fraud.

Smoke and fire. Always good for a diversion when reality is too tough to deal with.

No comments: