Building a New Rocket for the Nation

September 17, 2008
A concept image shows the Ares I crew launch vehicle on the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

The Ares I rocket, America's next flagship in space, is now in development by NASA and its industry partners, and soon will carry human explorers and new missions of discovery to the moon and beyond. And thousands of American workers in 32 states and Puerto Rico are helping make it happen.

Planning and building the Ares I, the first launch vehicle in NASA's robust, next-generation Constellation Program fleet, is truly a national effort, supported by more than 200 companies spread across the nation from Connecticut to California. The vast majority of them support one or more critical Ares projects: the rocket's first stage, upper stage or upper stage engine.

"These contributing companies and organizations across the nation are providing critical engineering expertise, hardware and materials fabrication and testing and a wide spectrum of support services," said Steve Cook, manager of Ares Projects at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Their work ensures that NASA will, in the next decade, successfully fly the Ares I rocket to orbit to support the International Space Station and send Americans back to the moon, preparing the way for rewarding new journeys of discovery throughout the solar system," Cook said.

The 165-foot-long Ares I first stage, the backbone of the integrated launch vehicle system, is a five-segment solid rocket booster derived from the space shuttle's twin boosters, enhanced and reconfigured to produce greater thrust. Burning more than 1.3 million pounds of propellant in just 125.8 seconds, the first stage will propel the rocket to an altitude of roughly 36 miles before being jettisoned. As the Ares I upper stage engine ignites, the first stage will deploy parachutes and gently drop into the sea for recovery, analysis and reuse.

The 84-foot-long Ares I upper stage is propelled by a J-2X main engine fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The J-2X is an evolved variation of two historic predecessors: the powerful J-2 engine that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets, and the J-2S, a simplified version of the J-2 developed and tested in the early 1970s but never flown.

The J-2X will operate for approximately 465 seconds, burning more than 302,200 pounds of propellant, and shut down when Ares I reaches an altitude of roughly 83 miles. The Orion crew exploration vehicle then will separate from the upper stage, and its own engine will fire to insert the spacecraft into low Earth orbit. The upper stage will reenter Earth's atmosphere and splash down in the Indian Ocean.

NASA's Constellation Program fleet -- now more than four years into development -- includes the Ares I, the Ares V heavy cargo launch vehicle and the Orion spacecraft. The Ares V will serve as NASA’s primary vessel for safe, reliable delivery of large-scale hardware to space, including the Altair lunar lander, also now in development, and supplies needed to establish a sustained human presence on the moon. The Orion will safely ferry a crew of four to six astronauts to a variety of destinations in space.

The first Ares I test flight, called Ares I-X, is scheduled for 2009. The first crewed launch of the Ares I rocket is planned for no later than 2015, and NASA plans to send the first missions back to the moon around 2020.

"We're proud to help continue the nation's tradition of leadership in space," Cook said. "Since NASA's creation 50 years ago, our endeavors have yielded or inspired technology innovations that enrich nearly every commercial industry and benefit Americans and people around the world in countless ways.

"Our team effort on Ares I will continue that legacy," Cook said, "and also will help to stimulate our economy and reignite the country's passion to journey to worlds beyond our own."

Source: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Explore further: Cutbacks at Stratolaunch, Virgin Galactic show the space industry is entering a second stage

Related Stories

To catch a wave, rocket launches from top of world

January 28, 2019

On Jan. 4, 2019, at 4:37 a.m. EST the CAPER-2 mission launched from the Andøya Space Center in Andenes, Norway, on a 4-stage Black Brant XII sounding rocket. Reaching an apogee of 480 miles high before splashing down in ...

Team develops first genetic switch for C. elegans

January 30, 2019

With their first ever RNA-based inducible system for switching on genes in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), two researchers from the University of Konstanz have closed a significant gap in genetic switches. ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dirk_bruere
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2008
Only 40 years behind schedule. This is what should have flown in the 1980s instead of the shuttle. Now if only NASA could look ahead to the 21st century...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.