ARES V: NASA to assess human rated version

by | Nov 21, 2008 | Constellation, exploration, NASA | 29 comments

In a surprise move NASA has included studies to assess the human rating of the Ares V cargo launch vehicle’s (CaLV) core stage in its draft statement of work (DSOW) for its request for information for the CaLV

Hyperbola has obtained a copy of the DSOW. Is this the beginnng of the end for the Ares I crew launch vehicle (CLV)?

The decision to undertake the study reverses a major decision NASA took after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and subsequent accident investigation, that crew and cargo would be launched on separate vehicles. The Ares I, with its solid rocket booster first-stage and the new upper stage powered by the J-2X engine, was selected to orbit the Orion crew exploration vehicle

The Ares V was to launch the Earth departure stage (EDS) and Altair lunar lander into low Earth orbit, from where it would dock with the Orion and then the EDS would perform the Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) burn. According to the DSOW the Ares V must be capable of putting 187,700kg into a 240km (149miles) orbit

NASA did study a booster called Ares IV that would use a CLV upper stage with an Ares V core stage to launch an Orion. The agency examined its use for a near Earth object mission where two astronauts would go to an asteroid passing through cislunar space

Constellation programme manager Jeff Hanley told Flight that Ares IV would “remain under study for the foreseeable future.”

However, we now know that NASA wants the core stage assessed for human rating as table 6.2A’s row 6-B-07, from the RFI’s draft statement of work, shows below

And NASA wants the EDS assessed for human rating as table 5-2A’s point 5-B-07 also shows. This was likely to always be the case because the EDS would perform the TLI burn for the manned Altair/Orion stack

The assessment of the core stage means NASA could be looking to develop an Ares IV or simply make the entire Ares V human rated, following Apollo’s Saturn V example, as a way of avoiding the need to launch a CLV for Earth orbit rendezvous

The DSOW says of Ares V, “NASA is responsible for the integration of the primary elements of the Ares V Launch Vehicle and the design of the Ares V vehicle and elements, including technical and programmatic integration of the Elements and Government-furnished property.  NASA will lead the effort to develop the concept of operations, requirements and refining the design concepts.”

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Hyperbola is a technology orientated spaceflight blog written by Flight technical editor Rob Coppinger