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Ares 1-X booster rocket dented in test flight

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The first stage booster rocket used in the Ares I-X test flight was found to be badly dented when it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean.

Ares 1-X was launched Wednesday to test the rocket's flight characteristics and hardware. NASA hopes Ares 1 will carry astronauts aboard the new Orion crew exploration vehicle back to the moon and onwards to Mars – unless, of course, the White House decides to deep six the space agency's lofty plans.

On-board video for the booster cut out before main parachute deployment, so NASA is currently unable to determine whether the damage was caused by any of the rocket's three 150-foot-wide parachutes not properly inflating, the rocket hitting the ocean at an unexpected angle, or some other unknown issue Spaceflightnow reports.

The booster is being towed by NASA's recovery ships back to Kennedy Space Center and should arrive sometime Thursday evening, where engineers can give closer inspection to the damage.

NASA shuttle managers, meanwhile, have chosen November 16 for the launch of Atlantis mission STS-129 to the International Space Station.

The date may shift depending on the November 14 launch of an Atlas V rocket from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If the Atlas launch is delayed to the 15th, the shuttle liftoff will move to no earlier than 2:02 pm on November 17, NASA said. ®

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