Palazzo Vision: SLS and Orion…Now and Forever More

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Continuing our look at the House’s spending plan for NASA, this edition of “Palazzo Vision: $3 Billion is Not Enough” examines provisions that would prevent NASA from ever canceling the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion without prior Congressional approval while immediately freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars more to spend on the two programs.

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Pentagon Could Suffer Blow Back From NASA’s Plan to Scuttle Ares V

Aviation Week has the latest on repercussions of NASA’s proposed scuttling of the Ares program:

The Pentagon is participating in an interagency integrated team convened to explore how best to sustain the rocket motor industrial base — a mandate made all the more urgent given NASA’s planned cancellation of the Constellation program, according to Brett Lambert, the Defense Dept.’s industrial policy director.

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Ares V: A long way from ESAS

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Credit: NASA

Rob Coppinger has an interesting analysis of NASA’s Ares V program on his Hyperbola blog. He takes a look at how the space agency’s moon rocket, based on space shuttle technology, has evolved since it was first incorporated as part of NASA’s Exploration Systems Architecture Study.

The story focuses on how engine selection and other factors affected the design and payload capacity of the Ares V. It’s a very detailed piece, so I won’t attempt to fully summarize it here. However, if you are interested in the details of why certain engines were chosen and the performance trade-offs that resulted, this would be a good read.

Ares V Underpowered; NASA Nears Decisions on Altair Lunar Lander

Aviation Week reports that the Ares V rocket isn’t powerful enough to launch a human mission to the moon as currently designed. Ares V’s capacity is about 11-12 tones below the 75.1 metric tons (with margins) that it needs to launch into trans-lunar injection. It is several tons short without margins.

“The payload requirements are very driving and very difficult to get to, and frankly our vehicle today is close but doesn’t quite meet those mission requirements,” said Phil Sumrall, advanced planning manager in the Exploration Launch Projects Office at Marshall Space Flight Center.

Current plans are for the Ares V to launch the Altair lunar lander, followed by the liftoff of the smaller Ares I with a four-member crew in the Orion spacecraft. The crew would spent four days in low Earth orbit before heading off to the moon.

NASA is working to boost the Ares V’s capacity as well as shaving about three tons off the Altair lander. In another article, Aviation Week reports the space agency has an in-house design team working on a rough concept for Altair. The team will be joined by some industry partners which will help develop a “minimal functional” design.

For more detailed information about the Altair design process, you can also check out this NASASpaceFlight.com article.