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Aerospace Corp Study: EELVs Viable Alternatives to Ares

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 21, 2009
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A long simmering battle over which rocket NASA should use for its space shuttle successor has broken out into the open this week. The dispute pits supporters of NASA’s new Ares rocket against those who would like to human-rate either the Delta or Atlas rockets. reports that a new study indicates that NASA could launch its new Orion spacecraft on existing rockets:

A study by the Aerospace Corporation, conducted at the request of NASA to disprove the viability of an option to switch Orion to an alternative Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), has found both the Atlas V Heavy and Delta IV Heavy are capable of launching Orion on both ISS and Lunar missions.

However, the main architect of the Ares program – which is derived from shuttle hardware – is having none of that:

Meanwhile, former NASA administrator Mike Griffin once again dismissed all alternatives to Ares I as unviable, due to the efforts already spent on Constellation.

There are costs and trade-offs associated with either sticking with the current architecture or starting over again. Atlas and Delta have plenty of lifting capacity for the job; however, there would have to be changes in trajectories and other safety matters to make them safe enough for human use. There also are disputes about how much this effort would cost.

Griffin gave a speech last week in which he accused penny-pinching bureaucrats at the Office of Management and Budget of shortchanging the Constellation budget over the last few years, endanging America’s efforts to replace the space shuttle and to return to the moon.

He also dismissed efforts to re-examine the Constellation architecture:

“I’ve grown impatient with the argument that Orion and Ares I are not perfect, and should be supplanted with other designs,” he noted. “I don’t agree that there is a better approach for the money, but if there were, so what?

“Any proposed approach would need to be enormously better to justify wiping out four years worth of solid progress. Engineers do not deal with “perfect”. Your viewgraphs will always be better than my hardware.

“A fictional space program will always be faster, better, and cheaper than a real space program.”

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One response to “Aerospace Corp Study: EELVs Viable Alternatives to Ares”

  1. Nickolai_the_Russian_Guy says:

    “A fictional space program will always be faster, better, and cheaper than a real space program.”

    This exemplifies what I think is the problem with leadership at NASA: they’re far too accustomed to large programs getting delayed and going over-budget. When the first signs of either of those two begin to appear, it’s seem as a normal and natural part of development.

    I think that’s complete crap. There are certainly ways to produce hardware on-time and on-budget, one of the best probably being accurate cost estimates instead of overly optimistic ones put forth in order to gain initial momentum.

    It’s what NASA does: it promises a lot for a little bit of money, and it delivers a little bit for a whole lot of money!

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