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NASA successfully tests first stage motor of Ares I

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Artist's concept of Ares I rocket. Image Credit: NASA

PROMONTORY (AP/PTI): The first test of NASA’s powerful moon rocket went off without a problem as more than half-million kilograms of propellant ignited in a split second, sending an enormous cloud of sand and dust high into the Utah sky.

For more than two minutes, flames roared out the end of the 47-meter Ares I rocket, which was anchored horizontally to the ground.

“That was something, wasn't it?” said a grinning Charlie Precourt, a former shuttle astronaut and vice president of Alliant Techsystems Inc's space launch systems.

More than 4,000 people witnessed the test and scores of others watched it on live television.

Once it was finished, a crowd gathered in a VIP area about more than a kilometre away cheered and congratulated grinning officials from NASA and Alliant.

“I can breathe again,” said Pat Lampton, NASA's chief engineer for the Ares first stage test. “It went like clockwork.”

The rocket is intended as a more powerful alternative to the two solid rocket boosters used to launch the space shuttle. Precourt called it “the most powerful rocket on the planet.”

Thursday’s test was the second attempt in two weeks after a similar one was scrubbed Aug 27 because of problems with a computer component on the ground test system.

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