Make-or-break time for Ares I

The Ares I-X flight is scheduled for tomorrow from Cape Canaveral, and for NASA the pressure is on. The unmanned Ares I-X is a $450 million test flight in preparation for the Ares I, a planned rocket that would launch the Orion crew capsule.

The Augustine commission report, released last week, suggested the Ares I is a mistake. While many Decatur residents work on the Ares I in Huntsville, the commission’s suggestions — if adopted by the Obama administration — could create benefits within Decatur. If NASA scraps the Ares I, a human-rated version of either the Atlas V or Delta IV are likely to fill the gap. The major U.S. assembly point for both rockets is the United Launch Alliance plant in Decatur.

It’s hard to imagine the Ares I surviving an unsuccessful Ares I-X test flight. Buttressed by the Augustine commission report, critics of the program are waiting for ammunition.

The launch is scheduled Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. Currently, NASA says there only is a 40 percent chance of favorable weather during the window. The team will have the same four-hour window for a launch attempt on Wednesday if Tuesday’s liftoff is scrubbed, and Wednesday’s weather shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather.

To watch the launch, go to NASA TV or see the live stream on the Web.

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