They got a big enough window in the clouds to launch the thing, and it went off without a hitch.
The rocket gave a bit of a swerve as it was lifting off, kind of sliding sideways perhaps 1/3 of the diameter of the booster before the guidance system corrected it. I saw one of the engineers in one of the control room mimic the motion with his right forearm, grinning.
Ascent was clean, and when the booster burned out, separation went smoothly.
Ares 1-X passed all the tests NASA set before it. With the Obama administration making "we're cutting your budget" noises, NASA needed a "win" from this launch, and they got it. Still, the vehicle was basically a space shuttle solid rocket booster (SRB) with a dummy payload; it would have been hard for NASA to screw that up.
This flight test does follow the correct paradigm for a rocket development program: make a change, test it. The shuttle SRB has an extra "dummy" segment added and the payload. This flight tested the steering and guidance mechanisms, as well as the basic launch configuration of the Ares rocket. It also gave them data on the vibration modes they can expect from a complete Ares rocket. Now that NASA has seen that this stuff will work, they can move forward with furthering the program.
The title of this post is a paraphrasal of something some NASA bigwig told the launch team. It is true: there were no problems with the vehicle at all; if the weather had cooperated this thing would have gone off yesterday.
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Interesting bit: apparently whenever KSC gets a new launch director, his tie is cut off after his first launch. This is evidently some kind of tradition, according to the guy who did the cutting. I'd love to know the story behind that.
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Now NASA is re-running video from all the different cameras, and the vehicle cameras were the ones I was waiting for.
About T+0:02 the video feed cut out from both cameras. I think there was a pretty hard jolt from the booster there. It re-established the link without losing too much time. I love in-vehicle ascent video.
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Well: I watched all the shuttle test flights live (including STS-1, Young-Crippen, the first flight of Colombia) and I continued that tradition by watching this one. We'll see if I can keep it up with whatever future flights NASA manages before the Democrats gut their budget.