National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Scott Graham

Overview of Crew Launch Vehicle Project

June 21, 2007

Scott Graham spoke with us on June 21 about the vision for space exploration.  It was announced in 2004 and included several specific goals such as: finishing the International Space Station, retiring the shuttle fleet, and developing the new space vehicles that would be used to reach the Moon and Mars.  Better understanding our solar system through exploration directly benefits the countries and people involved by strengthening and forging new global partnerships and technological developments.  Eventually, the technology being applied could directly apply to establishing a lasting manned station on the Moon.  NASA has evolved to operate with significantly less funding than in the ‘60s and to apply it toward even more challenging goals.

The first rocket being developed for the next steps in space exploration is the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle in order to minimize the time between retiring the Space Shuttle and returning humans to space.  The Ares 5 and Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) are to be continuously developed until after the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010.  The rockets being developed are based on known technologies and proven designs in order to ensure dependability and safety.  The development of the Ares I started in 2005 and since then one full design cycle has been completed, the vehicle behavior has been simulated in wind tunnels and computers, parachutes for the booster have been tested, and components of the J-2X engine have been tested.

The developments have occurred as a large-scale effort coordinated by the ten NASA centers and in conjunction with private-sector contractors.  Johnson Space Center is developing Orion, Kennedy oversees launch and recovery, and Marshall is designing, developing, and testing the Ares rockets.  The first unmanned flight will occur in 2012, and Orion will carry the first crew of astronauts to the ISS in 2014.  The current plans of the Constellation program orchestrate returning to the moon by 2020 and landing humans on Mars by 2030.

—Adam Pfendt