Alliant Techsystems has successfully fired a key NASA Ares 1 booster stage one separation system at the company’s Promontory, Utah facility, a critical milestone in the path to this summer’s Ares 1-X test flight.

The goal of the full scale separation test, which simulated the detachment of the Ares 1 solid rocket motor first stage from the larger diameter Ares 1 second stage, was to verify that the linear shaped charge creates “a clean severance” and to measure the shock generated by the charge, says ATK. The company continues to review the data from test.

atk stagesep©ATK

The two stages separate at the interface of the first stage’s forward skirt extension, a 6ft-long (1.8m), 12ft diameter aluminium cylinder that houses the separation charge as well parachutes used to recover the reusable first stage.

Ares I first stage art

ATK builds the Ares 1 five-segment first stage, which is similar to but larger and more powerful than the four-stage boosters used for the space shuttle.

The video below shows the actual test on 30 January 2009 in slow-motion.