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Today's leak involved plumbing for hydrazine fuel, a caustic substance used by the space shuttle's maneuvering jets while in space. Sensors at the pad detected concentrations of the fuel around 8:30 a.m. EDT this morning.
Leaking nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer formed a reddish-brown cloud of toxic vapors a few hours after launch yesterday.
The propellants are considered hazardous and could cause injury or death with exposure.
No injuries were reported but workers were given the option to be checked by health professionals, said NASA spokesperson George Diller.
Both leaks occurred at the 95-foot-level where the pad's fixed service structure and gantry-like rotating service structure meet, according to NASA.
"There is more damage than we customarily see after a shuttle launch," Diller said.
A team of specialists attired in self-contained protective suits have been dispatched to the pad to repair the leak. They are also checking for possible toxic vapors or contamination in fuel farms and shrubbery near the pad.
"The pad is going to be closed until they get all that done, which we expect won't be earlier than mid-afternoon," Diller said.
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The leak is in a part of the pad that was decommissioned from the space shuttle program.
Launch director Ed Mango said although some damage was expected at the complex after today's Ares 1-X launch, propellant leaks were not anticipated.
The dynamics at staging were unexpected but an early look at video imagery indicates the first stage and upper stage simulator likely did not contact each other after separation, said Bob Ess, Ares 1-X mission manager.
The other major question coming out of today's flight was the fate of the first stage.
Ess said radar tracked the rocket throughout its descent and it splashed down near the expected landing site. Data shows the booster ended up 17 miles from the Freedom Star recovery ship.
An on-board camera also recorded video of the drogue chute deployment.
Sailors on the vessel also reported they saw a splash of water on the horizon.
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There was no video confirmation of main parachute deployment, but radar tracking showed the first stage continued on the anticipated trajectory, according to Cowart.
NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off at 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-minute powered flight. The test flight lasted about six minutes from its launch from the newly-modified Launch Complex 39B until splash down of the rocket's booster stage nearly 150 miles down range.
"This is a huge step forward for NASA's exploration goals," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Ares I-X provides NASA with an enormous amount of data that will be used to improve the design and safety of the next generation of American spaceflight vehicles -- vehicles that could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit."
The 327-foot tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g's and Mach 4.76, just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a sub-orbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster.
Parachutes deployed for recovery of the booster and the solid rocket motor will be recovered at sea for later inspection. The simulated upper stage, Orion crew module, and launch abort system will not be recovered.
"The most valuable learning is through experience and observation," said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager. "Tests such as this -- from paper to flight -- are vital in gaining a deeper understanding of the vehicle, from design to development."
Wednesday's flight offered an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities, and ground operations - important data for future space vehicles. During the flight, a range of performance data was relayed to the ground and also stored in the onboard flight data recorder. The 700 sensors mounted on the vehicle provide flight test engineering data to correlate with computer models and analysis. The rocket's sensors gathered information in several areas, including assembly and launch operations, separation of the vehicle's first and second stages, controllability and aerodynamics, the re-entry and recovery of the first stage and new vehicle design techniques.
The Ares I-X efforts are led by the Ares I-X mission management office of the Constellation Program, based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland designed and built the vehicle's upper stage mass simulator. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., provided aerodynamic characterization, flight test vehicle integration and the crew module/launch abort system mass simulator. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., with contractor support, provided management for the development of Ares I-X avionics, roll control, and first stage systems. The Kennedy Space Center provided operations and associated ground activities and launch operations.
Contractors for Ares I-X include Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, of Salt Lake City for the first stage solid rocket booster and Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville for the roll control system. Jacobs Engineering of Tullahoma, Tenn., supported by Lockheed Martin of Denver, provided the avionics systems. United Space Alliance of Houston and ATK Launch Systems support the ground systems and launch operations.
Spokespersons from NASA and ATK were not able to confirm whether the chutes work. United Space Alliance is still checking.
The trio of 150-foot-wide parachutes have never been used in flight before today.
The rocket will deploy its pilot and drogue chute about 45 seconds from now. Its three main parachutes, each about 150 feet in diameter, will be unfurled at T+plus 5 minutes, 42 seconds. Splashdown is expected at T+plus 6 minutes, 9 seconds.
The top part of the Ares 1-X rocket, called the upper stage and Orion crew module simulator, will continue on an uncontrolled trajectory and crash into the Atlantic Ocean. It will not be recovered.
Activities inside the T-minus 1 minute mark include disabling the solid rocket motor joint heaters and switching the inertial navigation unit to navigation mode.
The first stage auxiliary power unit will be powered up at T-minus 28 seconds. This device drives the rocket's thrust vector control steering system.
The first stage thrust vector control system will become active and put the solid rocket motor nozzle through a gimbal steering check at T-minus 21 seconds. The ignition and hold-down post pyros will be armed at T-minus 18 seconds.
Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from the sound suppression system will be be dumped on the pad beginning at T-minus 16 seconds. The command receiver and decoder system will be uninhibited at T-minus 10 seconds to put the flight termination system in launch mode.
Solid rocket motor ignition will occur as clocks reach zero, followed less than one-quarter second later by liftoff. It will take approximately 6 seconds for Ares 1-X to clear the tower at pad 39B.
It will also be the first launch from pad 39B since December 2006.
Launch test director Jeff Spaulding offered this description:
"One other thing that's a little bit different than what we've done here for quite a while is that if we get after T-minus 4 minutes and counting, if we have any kind of an issue at that point and we need to stop, we can actually recycle back to four minutes and make additional attempts in that 4-hour window if we clear that nonconformance or issue that we had. So there are opportunities for multiple launch attempts potentially throughout that window if we're able to solve whatever problem stopped us."
"Terminal count in this case is very similar to what we would do on an Atlas 5. We basically do last-minute checks with the flight computer and with the way we're talking to all the different boxes in the flight control system," said Ed Mango, Ares 1-X launch director.
"The last four minutes are similar to a shuttle last nine minutes in terms of there shouldn't be any activity the Launch Authority Team needs to worry about. During that time, the firing team has it, they have the procedures, they have the preplans to execute the procedure. If we get into a scrub and we don't fly at that moment, because we have a four-hour launch window ... it provides us an opportunity to actually turn around a launch attempt and try to launch again that same day," Mango said.
The solid rocket motor and flight termination system's safe-and-arm devices will be rotated to the "armed" position about 30 seconds after the countdown resumes.
Cooling fans inside the upper stage simulator and first stage avionics module will be terminated at T-minus 3 minutes.
The launch vehicle will switch to internal battery power at T-minus 1 minute, 59 seconds. Five seconds later, on-board data recorders will begin collecting data from the more than 700 sensors scattered across the rocket.
The flight control system will be commanded to "launch enable" at T-minus 1 minute, 40 seconds. The system will be told to go to internal power at T-minus 1 minute, 20 seconds.
The countdown sequencer will also start at T-minus 1 minute, 20 seconds.
The weather could clear in about eight minutes, according to aircraft reports.
Rockets can be "treated" for surface electrification if the surface resistivity is less than 10^9 ohms/square and all conductors on surfaces are bonded to the vehicle by a resistance that is less than 10^5 ohms, according to information distributed by NASA.
A rocket can also be considered "treated "if it has been shown by test or analysis that electrostatic discharges on the surface of the vehicle caused by triboelectrification by precipitation particle impact will not be hazardous to the launch vehicle or the mission," according to NASA.
Low-level cumulus clouds have begun rolling into the Kennedy Space Center area over the past few minutes. The threat of breaking the precipitation and cumulus cloud rules will increase over the remainder of today's launch window, but the triboelectrification conditions are expected to diminish.
The triboelectrification rule continues to be violated, and there is a 60 percent chance the constraint will remain out of limits between now and 10:30 a.m. EDT, according to weather officials.
Those odds decrease to a 20 percent probability of breaking the triboelectrification rule after 10:45 a.m. EDT, so the weather situation may improve.
It is a beautiful morning here at the Kennedy Space Center with just a transparent layer of high level cirrus clouds, but that is all it takes to violate the triboelectrification rule.
"They've got the weather aircraft out there trying to find an opening to get past our good friend triboelectrification," Cowart said.
All of the rocket's systems have been checked out following the lightning storm overnight. The nearest hit to the pad was 700 yards away and the electric field just reached 20 percent of what the rocket can withstand. "We are essentially just in a hold position waiting for the weather to let us go," Cowart said.
As expected, weather is also a major factor this morning.
Jeff Spaulding, the launch test conductor, will poll the prime launch team inside Firing Room 1 to determine their readiness to proceed. Then Ed Mango, Ares 1-X launch director, will consult with the Launch Authority Team to verify they are prepared to enter the terminal countdown and launch.
Ed Mango provided this overview of activities during the hold:
"At T-minus 4 minutes, we'll take a poll of the Launch Authority Team. The Launch Authority Team is similar to the Mission Management Team on shuttle for its launch, really have the folks that are related to the hardware itself. That would be Bob Ess and his folks, being mission manager, and then the Constellation program led by Jeff Hanley, and he has a number of representatives that are also part of that Launch Authority Team advising him on whether we're ready to go fly that day or not."
"There's also engineering and safety people that are part of the Launch Authority Team. I will call on each of those folks during the poll, and then I hand it over to Jeff (Hanley) and ask him based on everything he's heard, if he's ready to go. I'll turn around and tell the launch team at this point we're ready to proceed."
The concern with triboelectrification is based on the potential that friction between the rocket and precipitation particles in clouds could create a field of static electricity. That static could disrupt communications with the rocket, including the ability of Range Safety to destroy the vehicle in the event of a mishap.
It will take six seconds for the rocket to clear the launch pad, after which the roll control system will be activated to begin a 90-degree roll program. The system was borrowed from the military's Peacekeeper missile program and will fire intermittently to keep the rocket in its roll envelope.
"There was a lot of talk, especially early on, about how much roll this booster will actually impart," said Bob Ess, Ares 1-X mission manager.
Thrust variability and aerodynamic forces caused by protuberances on the vehicle could impart roll forces.
"We have a very strong roll control system on board, so we're very confident that whatever we get we'll be able to control it," Ess said.
Four programmed test inputs, or PTIs, are planned during the two minutes of powered flight to test the rocket's reaction to small maneuvers.
The maneuvers "basically move it one way, move it to center, move it the other way and move it back," Ess said. "That sinusoidal input should make the vehicle move a little bit and we'll pick that up on our sensors. We'll see it probably during our post-flight analysis a couple weeks later. It probably won't be visible to you as you watch it on TV."
The first PTI will begin at T+plus 34 seconds and deflect the first stage nozzle by about 0.12 degrees for 10 seconds.
Ares 1-X will surpass Mach 1 just under 40 seconds after liftoff and reach maximum dynamic pressure at T+plus 1 minute.
Another PTI will move the motor nozzle by 0.12 degrees for 10 seconds starting at T+plus 55 seconds.
The two final test maneuvers will occur at T+plus 75 seconds and T+plus 94 seconds, when the rocket nozzle will move 0.35 degrees back and forth, then impart a yaw input by moving 1 degree.
Burnout and stage separation should take place beginning at about T+2 minutes.
The flight will end about six minutes after liftoff with a parachuted splashdown of the first stage 147 miles east of Cape Canaveral. The upper stage simulator will be destroyed when it makes an uncontrolled impact into the Atlantic Ocean.
The vehicle stabilization system was added between the 200- and 260-foot levels of the pad's fixed service structure. The system, fitted shock absorbers, acts as a wind damper to help Ares 1-X withstand higher winds at the pad. The VSS can be disconnected in up to 30-knot winds.
"It's really not a rotation back like an arm or anything," said Ed Mango, Ares 1-X launch director. "It disconnects and then we just move back a small section of the last piece that connects to the vehicle."
"We've got quite a few folks working at the pad doing quite a few different things pretty late," Spaulding said. "So we'll be tracking those and it's a little bit different that what we've done previously. It's really based on the fact that our purges are the only active cooling on the vehicle, so we'll be disconnecting those pretty late."
"First thing that happens is we blow the hold down bolts that are holding it to the ground. There are four big bolts that hold this vehicle down and when those release, the command is sent to ignite the solid rocket booster. Just like on a shuttle, it goes from zero to three million pounds of thrust in less then half a second, then it's giong to jump off the pad."
"Those lightning tower we have back there, it'll clear those in about seven or eight seconds. Thirty-nine seconds after T-zero it goes supersonic. To me, that's phenomenal. You see 1.8 million pounds going supersonic in 39 seconds. You'll see it arcing off to the east. You see the shuttle on a lot of their flights, they go up and then head for the northeast because they're going towards the International Space Station."
"We have a separation that occurs just beneath the frustrum and then the deceleration motors will fire, which will slow the first stage down a little bit and then we'll fire some tumble motors to get it spinning. We need that to happen so the parachutes will properly deploy."
"The upper stage continues on like a giant lawn dart and it's going to hit the water about 140 miles out going a pretty good clip."
For a complete overview of the flight, see our launch timeline.
"Ares 1-X has been a struggle all along, and last night's weather was no different," said Jon Cowart, the deputy mission manager.
Sensors detected 154 lightning strikes within five miles of the launch pad, including several hits inside a 0.6-mile radius. Strikes that close to the pad force engineers to conduct comprehensive functional tests of all the rocket's systems to make sure they still work.
Cowart said there were no hits on the pad itself.
Engineers have powered up all four electrical buses on the rocket and are analyzing the performance of the power channels. The work is being done in concert with normal countdown activities.
Another item of interest is the status of the 5-hole probe, a suite of instruments positioned at the very tip of the 327-foot-tall rocket. The package collects data on velocity and angle-of-attack during the launch, giving engineers a control measurement to compare against other instruments.
Rain at the pad overnight will likely degrade the data from the 5-hole probe. It was covered with a sock-like shield, but that cover was removed from the rocket during yesterday's countdown. It can't be put back on the sensors at the launch pad, leaving the instruments exposed.
A spare probe was positioned on top of the pad last night and is now being analyzed to characterize the performance of the instruments with water in them.
A final issue is the torquing problem on a door to the first stage avionics module. The launch team could become comfortable with the lower torque in bolts holding the door in place, or technicians may be asked to replace a nut plate on the panel.
The forecast still calls for a 60 percent chance of weather violating launch constraints. There will be scattered clouds at 3,000 feet and 8,000 feet, plus a broken deck of clouds at 25,000 feet, according to the forecast.
The temperature is expected to be between 75 degrees and 83 degrees Fahrenheit and ground winds are predicted to be less than the 20-knot limit.
The outlooks for Thursday and Friday both call for a 40 percent chance of weather keeping the rocket on the ground.
Meanwhile, engineers are retesting the more than 700 sensors on the rocket and are preparing to retract the upper stage access arm. The move of the rotating service structure is now expected to be about an hour from now.
High level clouds are being closely monitored again this morning to make sure they are acceptable under the triboelectrification rule.
Once the purges are removed, technicians will install flight doors over the purge ports.
The Prime Launch Team, led by test conductor Jeff Spaulding, has been managing the countdown since they arrived on station at 12:30 a.m. EDT this morning. A support team of engineers is located in Hangar AE at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
All weather rules are currently "go" for launch.
The triboelectrification rule was an ever-present concern during yesterday's launch attempt, toggling from "go" to "no go" throughout the launch window. The launch team tried to find clearings in the clouds through which to launch, but the weather ended up to be too challenging.
The concern is the rocket would build up static electricity as it flies through high level clouds containing ice or precipitation above the -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) line in the atmosphere up to the point where the vehicle's velocity reaches 3,000 feet per second.
The static, also called P-static, could disrupt communications to and from the vehicle, especially including the Range Safety restruct command link that would be used in the event of a mishap.
"If there is a high broken cloud ceiling (5/8 coverage or greater) this rule may apply. The weather reconnaissance aircraft will determine if the Ares 1-X flight path is clear of clouds for which there is a concern," says a NASA fact sheet.
The triboelectrification rule does not apply to space shuttle launches. Ares 1-X is not "treated" for surface electrification.
The most recent official weather report from the Shuttle Landing Facility showed a few clouds at 2,400 feet, a few clouds at 13,000 feet, and a broken deck at 24,000 feet.
The launch team has convened and the countdown for the launch of Ares 1-X has restarted.
Today's launch attempt comes a day after the countdown was scrubbed, primarily because of constantly changing weather conditions at the Cape.
Weighing 1.8 million pounds, the booster includes a four-segment solid-fueled first stage from the space shuttle program. Engineers built an inert fifth segment filled with avionics systems from the Atlas 5 rocket.
The upper stage and Orion crew module simulators were built by NASA's Glenn Research Center and Langley Research Center, respectively.
"This vehicle is very unique," said Ed Mango, Ares 1-X launch director. "It has shuttle components. It has Atlas components. It has some old Air Force components. And it has some new stuff that was built by NASA."
Controllers should now be preparing to power up the rocket's systems, including flight instrumentation, ground support equipment and vehicle systems.
Launch director Ed Mango and test director Jeff Spaulding gave reporters an overview of the countdown.
"It starts about seven hours before liftoff when we power up the vehicle for countdown day," Mango said. "And then we do a number of (navigation) checks and those kind of things similar to what you would do on any vehicle to make sure your guidance and navigation system is all good to go."
"The first thing that we'll be doing is coming in and powering up the vehicle, doing some of the checkouts and the alignments of the navigational systems. From that point forward, some of the major events will be happening at the pad in disconnecting some of our purges. We have two major purges we'll be disconnecting, one on the upper stage and one on the first stage avionics module. We'll be disconnecting those around 4 in the morning or so on (Wednesday)," Spaulding said.
For a complete overview of the launch countdown, see our comprehensive timeline.
Read our earlier status center coverage.