Is Ares I Dead?

If this report is correct, it is.

I’ve thought for a long time that it was a dead rocket walking. It simply cost too much, and made too little sense (though, of course, that’s never stopped NASA before). But we won’t know for sure until next year, and in the meantime, NASA will continue to waste money on things like this, because to stop work would be a tip off of the new policy. And of course, the article isn’t very specific about what the new heavy lifter will look like. It’s a shame that Augustine didn’t put a stake through the heart of heavy lift, but at least we got rid of the Corn Dog.

15 thoughts on “Is Ares I Dead?”

  1. Another interesting tidbit from the link:

    According to knowledgeable sources, the White House is convinced that scarce NASA funds would be better spent on a simpler heavy-lift vehicle that could be ready to fly as early as 2018. Meanwhile, European countries, Japan, and Canada would be asked to work on a lunar lander and modules for a moon base, saving the U.S. several billion dollars. And commercial companies would take over the job of getting supplies to the international space station.

  2. I dont know. Worlds other space programs seem to be well underway on getting to the moon, paying for it themselves. Soft landings are scheduled beginning in 2012.

  3. @reader soft unmanned landing are hardly any indication of a nation being further along in a manned lunar program than the US. The US routinely soft-lands on Mars (and could easily do so on the Moon as well) with robotic probes.

  4. Aren’t the Japanese the only other nation with a working, restartable, expander cycle LOX/LH2 upper stage engine? That probably makes a lot of difference when you are aiming for lunar landings.

  5. What is the “simpler heavy lift vehicle?” Ares V? It actually IS simpler in some respects, if based on the ET.

  6. Like Rand, I don’t see a HLV as a requirement for space exploration. It is certainly a nice desire-ment, but there is zero commercial market for that size vehicle right now, and finding a large enough insurance risk pool for that much mass would be a bear, and what kind of company would put that much investment capital at risk in one launch?

    That being said, I regard this as a political compromise to keep NASA (the Nelson And Shelby Agency) happy with lots of workers kept on the payroll and tax dollars rolling into Alabama and Florida.

    My hope is that commercial companies will step up to the plate (as SpaceX is trying to do) and deliver a crew transport to LEO vehicle in the 2012/13 timeframe, which will do way more to accelerate the industry than an HLV in 2018 (maybe).

    Personally I’d like to see the development of a universal interface/adapter that would allow any crew vehicle to mate to any launch vehicle. This would separate the rocket manufacture from the vehicle manufacture, and enable better competition in the provision of each.

    Space could be one of the industries that grows the U.S. out of its current economic malaise. In my view it is the one that offers the greatest potential reward over time, in numerous ways. It is poised on a razor’s edge, vacillating between stepping forward into an unknown but very bright future (so bright you’ve got to wear shades), or backwards into a comfortable status quo. The entrepreneurs are pushing forward, desiring to grow and prosper; yet they are restrained by a cautious government shackled by the nature of its own past successes.

    Serious change is needed, and NASA (and the U.S. government) can either help guide that change, or change will be inflicted on them.

  7. Hell, let them build their heavy-lift vehicle — Ares V, Jupiter, Jarvis, Big Dumb Booster, whatever they want to call it. If that’s what it takes to kill the Stick, it’ll be worth it.

    It might be a good idea to have an HLV, even if there are better things that could be done with the money:

    * You could launch lots of propellant mass to a fuel depot.

    * It makes some projects that involve large or massive structures more feasible.

    * It could come in handy in case we ever need to kill an asteroid.

    * Take that big fuel tank to orbit and use it!

    If the money isn’t spent on the HLV, there’s no guarantee that any other part of the space program would evere see it. And thhe cost to develop and build an HLV is a drop in the bucket anyway. If the news media and our beloved masters in Washington aren’t kidding, Obama just pledged to give $100 billion per year to our deserving fellow nations of Gaia to “combat climate change.”

    Speaking of money and climate, if I were giving NASA a dumptruck full of money I’d ask them to spend it on building a second launch complex somewhere other than on the Florida coast, so it doesn’t run the risk of getting flattened if Cape Canaveral is ever hit by a really big hurricane.

    (What ever happened to the Shuttle launch facilities at Vandenberg? Not that we’d want to use it for anything other than launches to polar orbit, unless the residents of Palmdale would like to have dead SRBs falling on their lawns.)

  8. Dave Klingler: “I thought we knew that Ares I was dead when we saw the composition of the Augustine panel.”

    It would be more accurate to say we knew that Ares I was dead when we saw the charter of the Augustine panel. The results would have been the same with respect to Ares I if the authors of the Vision for Space Exploration, Aldridge Commission report, or any number of other independent evaluations by a diverse group of space experts had been on the panel.

    The charter of the Augustine panel required the Committee to evaluate the NASA HSF program in all sorts of ways where Ares I and related elements of the current program are at a hopeless disadvantage compared to numerous alternatives:

    “human space flight … that is safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable”

    “expediting a new U.S. capability to support utilization of the International Space Station (ISS)”

    “supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO)”

    “stimulating commercial space flight capability”

    “fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities”

    “examine the appropriate amount of research and development and complementary robotic activities needed to make human space flight activities most productive and affordable over the long term”

    “appropriate opportunities for international collaboration”

    “evaluate options for extending ISS operations beyond 2016”

    If OSTP and the Administration are serious about these objectives, or even a good portion of them, Ares I is gone.

  9. Wonder if “Son of Shuttle-C” will be the “simpler heavy-lift vehicle” that NASA wants. It will certainly be the simplest to develop initially. It’s hard to see NASA getting the budget increase to support anything much more radical like Ares V or RP-1 HLLV.

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