If NASA's Ares rockets are Dead, what should NASA do?

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My own recommendations?


(1) NASA, except for the second stage (including the J2X, and the Orion Capsule) to abandon the entire Ares I designs.

(2) NASA to keep the shuttles flying at a reduced rate until a successor to the shuttle is fully operational (as also put more funding into the COTS program to push spacex as fast as it is prudent to go).

(3) Start back to the moon by funding Bigelow Aerospace and the Delta IV (as I previously stated I do not think that Congress is going to want to go along with the Russian powered Atlas V for this particular purpose) to build at a very reasonable cost, and time estimate, a transfer space station in a high Earth Orbit, to start the process of going back to the moon in a reasonable, far less expensive, and far safer and more sustainable manner than the already over blown Constellation project ever could! And IF such as Direct 2, 3 or whatever its latest version is, can be shown to do that better, or spacex can in the meantime come up with a far less expensive Falcon 9 Heavy, then fine, switch to them for getting to that orbit! In fact that might just spur UAL to also greater efforts!

Going with such a plan as I outlined in my previous post would give NASA and the government the flexibility to use ANY such cost cutting methodologies. Instead of being stuck with a single expensive method of going back to the moon!"[/quote]

(1) NASA abandons the entire project and puts the money into the COTS program. Space X seems to be pretty well along to developing a means to get back and forth to ISS and expand that capability beyond LEO.

(2) It is too late to keep flying Shuttle, that possibility ended a couple of years ago. They should assure the pieces to complete the ISS are put in place simply because they are designed to be put there by Shuttle and to use something else would be outrageously expensive.

(3) The Bigelow Modules offer a lot of capabilities, but they still need to be put into LEO to be usable, from there the moon, Mars, or anywhere else is the same thing. If Space X can do that cheaper then that's a benifit of the COTS funding. Delta or Atlas would be a benefit of NASA and Military funding but since all three will be available either Delta and Atlas costs will come down or Space X will raise their prices to take advantage of the market.

To LEO is the key factor, higher orbits, Asteroids, the moon or Mars are variations on the same theme. Bigalows inflatables go up as cargo, my idea uses the second stage tanks as building material for LEO facilities as well as long range vehicles and facilities. Economics in Modularization reduces costs. Upper stage Modules are disassembled and rebuilt into other structures, upper stage engines, after getting to orbit, are used to power missions beyond LEO.

Bigelow has a good idea, don't get me wrong, but it is dead weight from Earth to LEO, if it could serve as the propellant tanks for a launcher it would pay it's way to orbit, and if the upper stage engines could be used in and beyond LEO they would pay their way also. If we want to do it we have to find the most economical way to do it.


samkent":2e69dokf said:
“Investment in space” hmmm interesting way of putting it. If that’s the way you really see it, then the reason for low funding makes sense.

Investing in space is a losing proposition from the get go!

Your connecting space with consumer products is just plain wrong.

Super insulation – Dow patented polystyrene foam in 1941. 1946 was the first use as insulation in commercial buildings.

Power tools – I assume you mean cordless. Electric motors have been around for generations. The current generation of batteries, lithium ion, have absolutely NOTHING to do with NASA or space. They were proposed and developed by universities and Exxon starting in the 70’s. In fact NASA has banned lithium ion batteries on the shuttle in any use including the laptops onboard due to their potential spontaneous fire hazard.

Look humans were inventing and developing based on old ideas long before space programs were around. You can’t say we need space programs to further our technological development without insulting the intelligence of previous generations.

Can you name a couple of items we use on a regular basis that would not have come into being without a space program? Even the stand by of saying “computers” is wrong. Computers have been around since WW2. The ones used to get to the moon were just off shoots of existing technology of the day. Even those off shoots didn’t morph into our desktops of today. They were totally different design paths.

Investing in space is the only investment I can think of where you are almost guaranteed a 100% loss of principle.


Have you ever heard of Thinsulate? It was a product developed to be used in spacesuit gloves for shuttle missions. If wasn't good enough for NASA, but it was plenty good for makers of outdoor wear. I can't say that I have seen anybody wearing polystyrene insulated clothing recently.

The nickel-cadmium battery has been around since at least the1950's, but I don't recall seeing any hand tools powered by one until about 1988, when the first cordless driver/drills started to hit the market. I have no direct reference for this, but I have heard that the tremendous leaps in battery technology that lead to such things was driven by a need for power tools to be used during spacewalks.

Until the Apollo program, there was absolutely no need or reason to try to stuff a computer into a small box. Discrete components were mounted on circuit cards that only held a few hundred components, and power consumption was measured in kilowatts. If you needed computing done, you just sent the data to a main-frame, and waited a couple of hours/days. If you had a lot of computing to do, you got a time-share. Terminal, that is.

Billions of dollars are invested every year in attempts to develop new products for consumers to snatch up. Most are flops, for some reason or another. But technologies developed for the space program have consistently been winners when released for general consumption. If space development is ever to become a successful enterprise, it will not be as a result of manned missions to Mars. It will be because products that people are willing to pay top dollar for have been developed off planet. Foamed metals, possibly even ceramics, with carbon fiber reinforcement, could make building ultra-lightweight but super-strong vehicles a reality, for instance.

In space, in a zero-gravity environment, it is possible to alloy practically any metals, because density differences don't cause the dissimilar materials to separate. What will this mean? No one knows, because we can't do that kind of thing on Earth. Room temperature superconducters might be merely a matter of mixing two materials with vastly different densities and then annealing them for a few months. Who cares how much energy it takes to anneal something for that long? The energy would be free, direct from the Sun.

Private industry has no problem getting billions of dollars invested in deep-water drill ships, huge open-pit gold mines, and 45 nanometer production facilities. If we had not been sitting on our hands for the last 40 years, that kind of investment would be going into space right now. We lament about the lack of money being spent on space exploration, but it is not because the money doesn't exist. It is because the infrastructure of Cheap Access To Space, standardized space stations, and real space craft have never been developed.

Real investment in space won't happen until government has brought the costs of building space stations down, lowered the risks and costs of reaching orbit, and mapped out where the resources lie.


scott50: Good ideas in themselves, and if NASA was to be truly given the funding that it should have, and they could then investigate ALL the possibilities, I would say go for your ideas. But we both know that is not going to happen!

So, when you state:

"(1) NASA abandons the entire project and puts the money into the COTS program. Space X seems to be pretty well along to developing a means to get back and forth to ISS and expand that capability beyond LEO."

NASA can not possibly do this! Congress would then cut off ALL manned space funding! Why? Because NASA would then be forced to admit to having just spent some $7 billion of the taxpayers money on absolutely nothing, that is why!

Believe me, particularly in the near future of high federal deficits this would be politically impossible for NASA to do.

But, it would be possible for NASA to back out graciously from the Constellation Project and Ares I by saving at least the upper stage work already done (which includes both the Orion Capsule, and the J2X Engines). They could even state the the five segment work done by ATK will be used on pure materials shipments to LEO at some future time. NASA's statement that if they can not do the Ares I the Ares V is completely dead, simply isn't true. As long as they have not just wasted ALL that money Congress may very well let them off the hook, especially as there is a new administration in town.

As for just giving ALL the funding to spacex for COTS, forget that also, I do not have to be a Congress person to immediately object to that! While I do support the efforts of spacex and Elon Musk, neither his company nor him are some kind of panacea to gallop along and save everything! All it would take is somebody in a Congressional Hearing to stand up and state that we would be giving all the manned space money of NASA to an outfit that took some four times to just get to orbit with a rocket not much bigger than a German V2!

This is particularly true when some one else could equally point out that you already have a company in UAL that is launching 20+ tons of spy satellites for the military with either the Delta IV Heavy, or the Atlas V! And that company is made up of the combined experience of two companies that have been in the space business for longer that Elon Musk has been alive! I especially find it difficult to understand how some people here can just dismiss a company like Boeing that was responsible for designing and building a large part of the Saturn V rocket that enabled us to get to the moon the first time around!

Now, this does NOT mean that I am against increasing the funding for COTS, I have no problem with that, but I do not see NASA just dropping all of its funding into that particular basket, and I especially do not see Congress allowing them to. Heck, NASA would have enough trouble from a political standpoint just killing off the Ares I, and therefore hurting ATK that much. After all, Utah has just as many senators as any other state! But if COTS were to even benefit by an increase of some $500 million per year it would give such a starting company as spacex a huge boost for that program. And I see no reason why NASA after somewhat killing the Ares I could not get away with that kind of an increase, none at all!

As to your second point, this really has a tendency to upset me! It is total unmitigated Bull that the shuttle is totally dead. That is what the pro Ares I and such bean counters at NASA WANT you to think! And once again, even if the Congress people themselves are not technologically conversant, their staffs are! The only point that the shuttle is now even somewhat dismantled is the main tank! Here is why stating that the shuttle is so dead is just baloney!

(1) If ATK can do design work on the new five segment motors, then is it not possible for them to still produce the same four segment motors that they have been producing all along? Of course it is! And keeping the shuttles flying on those four segment motors just might somewhat mitigate the loss of the Ares I to ATK, and keep their congress people relatively quite over that loss, ever think of that political ploy by NASA?. And all that at a far lower cost than developing the new motors.

(2) The orbiters themselves were designed for a lifetime of 100 flights each, do you or anybody else even begin to think that they are anywhere near that limit? Not only are they not, but as recently as only a few years ago a large amount of taxpayer monies was spent in totally upgrading the cockpits to newer digital standards! Should that investment now be wasted? Oh, I am well aware that the shuttle is a difficult and dangerous system to keep flying, but guess what, so will anything else be that is going from a standstill on the launch pad up to 100+ miles high and some 17,500 mph in the bargain! And the astronauts are even more aware of this than anybody!

(3) Rocketdyne is still very capable of maintaining the current crop of SSME's, which like the orbiter cockpits have recently been rebuilt for greater safety margins that even before. And these engines have never been responsible for bringing any shuttle down!

(4) The ONLY main segment of the shuttle system that has to some extent been been shut down is the main tank. And just why could not even that be started up again?

(5) Yes, the shuttle IS expensive to fly, but just what makes anybody here think that the Russians (who we have made excellent capitalists of) are just going to sit still and not soak us totally to get our people up to the ISS for at least several years, if the shuttle is truly killed off? That is, if some kind of political tensions do not just have them stop us from going up to the ISS at ALL!! To the very space station that we the US taxpayers have paid at least some 80% of!! And once again, if an old ex aerospace worker such as myself can see this, do you not think it possible for congressional staffers (whose very job it is to see these things) to not also see it???

(6) Besides this, even if each shuttle was to only fly once per year until another system is capable (dragon, Orion, I really do not care what system, as long as it is an American system) of taking astronauts and materials to the ISS, and remember that the shuttle can carry many times the amounts of materials up to and back from the ISS than ANY other system now, or even contemplated to the ISS, it would only mean some three flights per year of the shuttle system. If we can afford the six flights or so that we have been for some time now, then only three should not be that difficult!!

(7) And finally, while the Russian equipment itself is very good, I as a patriotic American do NOT want us to have to just go on our knees to the Russians. Russians that may just not always be even as friendly towards us as the now are (and relations are not at this time even that good)!! Does it not seem possible that might just be one of the reasons that Congress does not seem to be so enthusiastic about just taking the shuttle off line before we have something else that is a proven system for doing what it now does so very well? I do hope that this new committee chaired by Augustine can see this, because if they can't, then I am very afraid that some congressional committee may very well see it, much to the detriment of NASA!!!

So, in total, while I can go along with killing the Ares I (at least partially, saving what can be saved), and giving additional funding to the COTS program. I can not go along with killing the STS system until a suitable replacement is actually launching successfully! If that means that the same Congress that I am almost certain is going to feel the same way giving NASA a reasonable boost (such as a continuing 10% over inflation as an addition to their budget each year) then I am reasonably certain that the might just do so!

However, I must admit that nothing is totally certain in this life, except death and taxes...... ;)


Have you ever heard of Thinsulate? It was a product developed to be used in spacesuit gloves for shuttle missions. If wasn't good enough for NASA, but it was plenty good for makers of outdoor wear.

From the 3M website

Question 7. How was Thinsulate insulation invented?
Thinsulate insulation began in the 1960s when 3M started experiments in microfiber technology. By 1978, 3M had introduced Thinsulate insulation into the apparel and accessories marketplace. Since then, Thinsulate insulation has become synonymous with warmth and comfort,

No mention of the shuttle program or spacesuit gloves.

The nickel-cadmium battery has been around since at least the1950's, but I don't recall seeing any hand tools powered by one until about 1988, when the first cordless driver/drills started to hit the market.

From Wiki

The first NiCd battery was created by Waldemar Jungner of Sweden in 1899.


The first production in the United States began in 1946.

The oldest patent I can quickly find is from 1961 for a cordless drill for the Black and Decker company. Which was obviously before Apollo.

Until the Apollo program, there was absolutely no need or reason to try to stuff a computer into a small box. Discrete components were mounted on circuit cards that only held a few hundred components, and power consumption was measured in kilowatts.

The first patents for integrated circuits were granted in 1959.

Texas Instruments first used the chips in Air Force computers and the Minuteman Missile in 1962.

In 1971 Intel released the 4004 single IC computer. I suspect that during the 9 years in-between there was ongoing work to make chips and computers smaller. Just like today. The Apollo computers were just off shoots from existing efforts.

Look I’m not trying to belittle their accomplishments but I could go on ad nausea but Nasa didn’t invent most of the things they are given credit for. They merely adapted existing technology for their own needs. Think of it from their point of view in the sixties. They had to do something no one else had done before. They didn’t have time to invent new devises. They took what they knew worked and adapted it to the task at hand.


samkent: To some extent you are correct. It does NOT matter whether or not NASA ever generated anything of use here!

The important thing for the future of humanity is that we at the very least get enough of the thrust of our civilization off of this spaceship Earth while there still is a spaceship Earth to get us off of!!

And I am NOT even talking about the Earth being hit by some kind of a moderate sized asteroid and killing us off.

NO, what I am talking about is far more certain and far sooner that that, even though without a space faring civilization, that too is an eventual certainty!!

What I am talking about is one of two far sooner (although such an NEO could happen at any time) dire things happening!

The first is we so run this planet out of the resources necessary to sustain not only our civilization, but even our very lives, that first human civilization and eventually humanity itself can no longer exist on this planet! And this is not something that is going to happen thousands of years into the future, but at most only a couple of hundred years into the future (if we are even that lucky). And all of our environmental and recycling and other green efforts are only going to postpone the inevitable by hopefully enough time to get that space faring civilization up to speed, if not then there is no hope for this option!!!

The other is to some extent even worse! And that is that before we so run out of those resources we pollute this planet to such an extent that not only can we not live on it anymore, but perhaps ALL life can no longer live here!

The last fifty years or so should have shown anyone with even a modicum of intelligence that mankind is currently in a race to see just what option will be the big winner, and kill us all off!

Most of the posters here will only see the beginning of this very certain end, but it is not going to be very far into the future that our immediate descendants will be feeling the really harsh results of this!

ANY reasonable engineer will tell you that there ARE no perfect systems. So regardless of what we do, this is going to happen. Do I sound somewhat negative here? You had better believe it buddy!

But there is at least a way for humanity to survive, and in the long run even thrive. And that is to move outwards just as fast as we can. The resources of the solar system while not being infinite are so much more than those of this planet that regardless of just how much humanity expands they will be adequate for thousands of years at least!!

And after that, as we now know that the solar system through the Oort Cloud goes at least half way to the nearest star, then eventually (even without faster than light travel) we can expand outwards into an infinitely greater galaxy!

But we either get started very soon or expect to possibly never get started, and that (to me even though I will have been fish food for quite sometime) to me would be a true tragedy!!

So people, just which is it to be???


As a newbie here all I can say is WOW. The debate here is top notch and in no way can I even approach the material and topic matter written so far.

Now to my comment, as one who knows the Delta IV well, it is a great option for Ares, but changes need to be made. We spend way too much effort in closing out the rocket. To man rate it would require us to do a better job of that but it is very doable. IMHO, scrapping the Shuttle to go back to a capsule was just plain stupid and shortsighted.

We need to expand and improve, not go backwards to what we used to do. That's like for autos of doing away with hybrids, fuel injection, better aero, materials, etc. and start building 60's style Ford Galaxy 500's and Chevy Impala's again.


I know Ares and Project Consellation comes into alot of criticism, but i have just watched a program about the history of the shuttle program. What i didnt know then, was people were saying the exact same things about it as they do with Ares.

They had major problems from tiles falling off, to main engines exploding during testing, and many felt it was taking so long to get it right, it would never take off. And look at it now.



The development of the space shuttle encompassed many new technologies, from reusable engines to non-ablative heat shielding. Another factor was the frequent changes in design early in the program, such as the huge payload requirement the Air Force demanded, the switch from liquid fueled to solid fueled booster rockets, and a higher orbital ceiling. Throw in constant budget cuts, and it is a wonder that the shuttle ever flew, much less that it has been so successful.

But we are not breaking any new ground with the Ares rockets and the Orion capsule. We supposedly know how to build rockets already, which is why many people are concerned about using a segmented solid fueled booster for a first stage. Where does the airframe get its rigidity? How will it cope with lateral stresses? Are we simply providing a major defense contractor with some corporate welfare?

Ever since Apollo 11, the future of manned space flight in the United States has been gravely uncertain. The U. S. government has consistently refused to commit to any major program, instead doling out just enough cash to get by for the moment. NASA in the 1970's was determined that manned space exploration would continue, someday, and so was willing to delay launching the shuttle until they were confident that the vehicle would be a success.

Where is that attitude today? Doesn't it seem that NASA is merely going through the motions, staving off the inevitable a little longer? The Constellation program does not have any framework of goals to measure its progress, no well defined activities that we are preparing for, it is merely about 'returning to the Moon.' Just to prove that we can still do it, it seems to me.

Instead of inviting the private sector to design and build a launch vehicle to replace the shuttle, NASA has kept everything in-house, which makes it a lot easier to just shut it down. Instead of focusing on new hardware that we will need when we get to the Moon, and contracting out the launch capacity we need to get there, NASA has acted as if they are only ones who are capable of sending people into space.

We have yet to see the Ares-I fly, even though it is supposed to be carrying passengers in 6 years. Or is that 7 years? If it turns out that the Ares-I can't fly, how is NASA going to explain to the American public that we are no longer a space-faring nation? Or would they rather just quietly let the whole thing drop off of the radar? It kind of seems that way to me.


bobble_bob":3a5sj9ut said:
I know Ares and Project Consellation comes into alot of criticism, but i have just watched a program about the history of the shuttle program. What i didnt know then, was people were saying the exact same things about it as they do with Ares.

They had major problems from tiles falling off, to main engines exploding during testing, and many felt it was taking so long to get it right, it would never take off. And look at it now.

The difference was that the Space Shuttle was a completely new, (almost beyond) state-of-the-art program. While it did indeed cost far more than expected, and took more time than expected to become "operational," and has never measured up to being "the DC-3 of the Space Age," its ultimate capabilities have far exceeded any of its predecessors in terms of flexibility and capabilities for operation to LEO. No, it isn't the Saturn V, and was never meant to be! And, perhaps we could have achieved the same results using the Saturn V and its follow-ons.

But Ares I is a kluge, and not a very capable one at that! It harkens back to to the Vanguard program, which was supposed to be a "civilian" one. It was based on the Martin Viking rocket, Aerobee-HI second stage, and some 3rd stage I can't recall at the moment. It had a very low payload lift capability (about 5-25 lbs IIRC), and was basically a kluge. Fortunately, von Braun and the Army Ballistic Missile Laboratory had the Jupiter-C ready to go after Sputnik scared the "goose stuffings" out of us!

Lift of personnel and supplies to the ISS and possibly other LEO satellite facilities appears to be capable of being done using the Delta IV family. The question I have is, IF we are going to the Moon (without having to apply to the PRC Embassy for a visa!!!), why do we have to do it all at once, or even using one LV for personnel and another for cargo (Ares V)? We have Earth Orbit and Lunar Orbit Rendezvous down to a science. Why not launch however many Delta IV's as needed to transport TLI stages, lunar landing stages, lunar assent stages, infrasturcture, etc. to the Moon and return (when desired)? By all means, continue development of the J-2X, but let's STOP FOOLING AROUND WITH MARGINAL DESIGNS!

BTW, for those that argue that NO benefits were derrived from the Space Program, let me remind you that such things as telemetered medical data from ambulances, Medium Intensive Care monitors, ureterscopes (from jet engine bore scope equipment), and, most important to ME AND MY WIFE, the image enhancement digital software released from classification by the National Security Agency, which is now used to enhance mammographies so that early detection of breast cancer is now available, all came from somewhere in the Space Program! (She's doing fine after yesterday's "procedure", thank you!)

If we are at all interested in being at the cutting edge of technology, including exploration of our Moon, solar system and eventually beyond, BY OURSELVES AND OUR DESCENDENTS, then let's stop this kluge mentallity, and develop a decent set of launch vehicles that will do the job without getting ourselves so close to the edge of performance!

Ad LEO! Ad Luna! Ad Ares! Ad Astra!


It is a mystery to me why this is going to cost $35 billion to reinvent the wheel. $7 sounds fine to me.


http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/07/ ... apability/

I am pretty sure that the vibrational defects are still too great. With this vibrational defect, there is going to be a large explosion, when they hit the self destruct button, at 80 sec into flight. More or less.

This is no way to run an airline, as they say in the movies.


WOW!! Not only is this a far less expensive proposition (and it really does not sound as if this is even that much of a come down from the original plans), but with the savings, NASA could keep the shuttle itself flying on a limited basis until such a system is ready to replace it, thus we would not have to worry about the Russians, one way to the other. Plus in its own way it is somewhat based on the Direct 2 type of concept, and should also bring that group along for additional support!

Besides which, this keeps ALL of the shuttle lines open to be able to not only keep the shuttle flying until its replacement is ready to go to the ISS, but also plans on going back to the moon at a far less expensive rate. Heck, this could also be the basis for building a true space station in LEO to a space station in moons orbit system also!

It does seem to me to be a win-win-win situation for NASA and manned space flight!

To say nothing of its evidently very positively impressing this new committee!

It would be inexpensive enough to also impress Congress as it would not (at least in these economic times) require massive new NASA funding!

I say, GO with IT!!!

The only somewhat nasty question that comes to mind (and will possibly be asked by Congress at least) is just why was this not thought of originally?


I agree Frodo. I wonder what you think about my post just above yours...??


Yep job1207, the more I see of this current program and design, the worse it seems to get! And this is NOT even a test of the actual Ares I!!

The entire program should be immediately scrapped, and what can be still saved and used, used for this new idea that uses the shuttle components as they were originally supposed to have been used by NASA to save truly vast amounts of funding in going back to the moon in the first place!

Then NASA should keep the shuttles flying in a reduced mode and push the COTS program, and get something realistically done to get up to the ISS without having to depend totally on the Russians!

Until spacex can develop and prove the reliability of a Falcon 9 Heavy, NASA should not only push spacex to get the dragon capsule itself ready, but also do what is needed to get the Delta IV man-rated (whatever that entails) to be used along with the dragon capsule for ISS transport!

In the meantime developing this new system to get back to the moon!

And ALL of this can be done withing the level of NASA's current manned space flight budget, without interfering with all the other important parts of the NASA budget!

Good Grief, if I as nothing but a retired aerospace manufacturing worker can see this, then surely the far better brains on that committee, and in the Congressional Over Site committees can see it also??? :roll:


But would the engines be reusable (how to recover them?) or expendable (what type?) I would guess expendable RS-68s would be the simplest answer.


Todays Orlando Sentinel is reporting Ares I and the until now current Ares V may be canceled in favor of an "Ares V Lite", which to me sounds an awful lot like the Ares IV. (Flight Intl. image below)


Is Ares program dead? NASA told to explore new ways to reach the moon

Presidential committee wants to see both minor tweaks and 'wholesale' changes to Constellation Program.

Members of the presidentially appointed panel reviewing the future of America's manned-space plans have asked NASA to design a new way to send astronauts back to the moon.

The request could result in NASA ditching the controversial Ares I rocket design that the agency has spent the past four years and more than $3 billion creating and defending. And any redesign would almost certainly delay NASA's first-launch deadline of 2015, though most critics no longer consider that deadline realistic.

According to committee officials, panel members have told NASA they want to see the effects of both minor tweaks and "wholesale" changes to its Constellation Program that is intended to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 on a new generation of two Ares rockets and a crew capsule called Orion.
"One of the [panel's] subcommittees has asked the [Constellation] program to present both the baseline ... program and one of the variants that they have studied as well," said one committee official, who asked not to be named because he's not authorized to speak for the committee.

The official provided no details about the "variant," but the request coincides with NASA scrambling some of its top engineers to study an "architecture" that would use a single rocket to launch both humans and cargo to the moon. Constellation's current approach calls for two rockets — the Ares I that would carry humans into space, and the enormous Ares V to lift heavy cargo.

For more than a week now, engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., including some working on Ares I, have been pulled from their current duties to study creation of a smaller version of the Ares V that could carry both crew and heavy equipment.

NASA confirms that it is looking at different versions of the Ares V, though a spokeswoman played down the significance of the review.

"This is nothing new, and as a part of these ongoing ... studies the program continues to look at a wide variety of options on Ares V as is standard practice in formulation," said NASA spokeswoman Ashley Edwards in a statement.

But NASA insiders and contractors familiar with the work say that the work is far from "standard practice" and could herald the demise of the Ares I.

"They are looking at a whole new launch architecture," said one NASA contractor familiar with the study. "Although it's still too early to pronounce Ares I dead, it is safe to assume that members of the committees have doubts about it."

The downsized version of the Ares V would use the same upper-stage engine as Ares I, the liquid-fueled J2X, and could even use two five-segment solid rockets developed for Ares I as boosters. The main power would come from several RS-68 liquid-fuel engines, like the ones now used on the commercial Delta IV rocket.

The original Ares V was supposed to be 381 feet tall; the new rocket would be shorter.

Although it would be cheaper to design one rocket rather than two, operating costs would rise. The reason: two launches — one to orbit astronauts and a second to orbit the lunar lander — would still be required, and the bigger rocket would cost more to launch than Ares I.

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin recently wrote Augustine, the review panel's chairman, saying that the idea was feasible but that he did not support it.

"The dual-Ares 5 launch does offer considerably more capability to the Moon than the baseline Ares 1/Ares 5 scheme," he wrote to Augustine in an e-mail last week that was copied to the Orlando Sentinel. "However, it also comes at much greater marginal cost, and therefore I do not, and we at NASA in general did not, recommend it for the baseline approach."



job1207":2wcp4a0x said:
It is a mystery to me why this is going to cost $35 billion to reinvent the wheel. $7 sounds fine to me.

Let us not forget that the primary contractor is a major defense contractor as well, who may not have been getting any contracts for new missiles in a while.
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