Development of NASA's Ares Moon rockets continues apace, despite criticisms from an team designing an alternative. Now NASA engineers have announced how they're going to deal with a potentially serious vibration problem in the crew-launched Ares I: springs.
During the development and early testing of the smaller Ares I rocket, there've been fears that uneven fuel burning in the motor could lead to high-g shaking when in flight. If the shaking builds to a high enough intensity, it could be deadly to both the crew and vehicle.
So Ares Is will have an adaptive damping system built into the rocket base: essentially spring-mounted weights, with smart springs that can be adjusted so the system compensates for severe vibrations—a little like some anti-earthquake systems employed in modern buildings.
Apparently the design team has enough margin in the power-weight ratio of the rocket's current configuration to accommodate the extra safety equipment. "I'm comfortable that they'll be able to absorb the mass impact that these things imply, with no problem," said the Constellation program manager. Though whether or not this adds more delays to the development of the rockets remains to be seen. [New Scientist]