Ares I-X Launch Vehicle Modal Test Overview
The first test flight of NASA’s Ares I crew launch vehicle, called Ares I-X, is scheduled for launch in 2009. Ares I-X will use a 4-segment reusable solid rocket booster from the Space Shuttle heritage with mass simulators for the 5th segment, upper stage, crew module and launch abort system. Flight test data will provide important information on ascent loads, vehicle control, separation, and first stage reentry dynamics. As part of hardware verification, a series of modal tests were designed to verify the dynamic finite element model (FEM) used in loads assessments and flight control evaluations. Based on flight control system studies, the critical modes were the first three free-free bending mode pairs. Since a test of the free-free vehicle is not practical within project constraints, modal tests for several configurations in the nominal integration flow were defined to calibrate the FEM. A traceability study by Aerospace Corporation was used to identify the critical modes for the tested configurations. Test configurations included two partial stacks and the full Ares I-X launch vehicle on the Mobile Launcher Platform. This paper provides an overview for companion papers in the Ares I-X Modal Test Session. The requirements flow down, pre-test analysis, constraints and overall test planning are described.
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