A prototype of NASA's new rocket, the Ares 1-X, took its first test flight this morning. After being delayed for more than 24 hours due to weather concerns, the launch went as smoothly as could be expected.
The flight was designed to test new design and technology features for future NASA rockets. During the two and a half minutes before burn out -- when the rocket engine shuts off -- the Ares 1-X performed several trajectory maneuvers. Ultimately the rocket reached speeds well over twice the speed of sound and soared to more than 22 miles above the Earth.
These tests are very important as they allow scientists to see how the rocket will behave under various conditions. Though it seemed like a beautiful, sunny Florida morning, the high altitude clouds and cross winds were significant.
Unlike an airplane that has more dynamic control and can handle more severe weather, a rocket can have great difficulty dealing with even mild forces of nature. This is because an airplane only has to worry about cruising at 6 or 7 miles in the air, where as a rocket must climb ten times higher, often carrying considerable weight.
As NASA analyzes the results of this launch will they will be able to take the next steps in creating the next line of rockets and space vehicles. All of which is necessary to continue exploring beyond our World.
Image Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann