Overview of Crew Launch Vehicle Project
Tuesday July 8, 2008 – Cleveland, OH
On July 8, 2008, we had a talk by Scott Graham on the Ares launch vehicle. He started the talk by a brief introduction of his work and experience at NASA. Dr. Graham has been working with rockets since 1981, and now at the dawn of the Constellation Program, he is working on the Ares launch vehicle. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program has been a very hot topic recently, Dr. Graham continued his talk by explaining the reasons behind this decision. He believes, as most do, that the shuttle is getting too old and it is to no ones’ benefit to continue using it. Also, there has always been problems with the heat shields on the shuttle and this puts the crew in danger. The other problem with the shuttle is that if anything goes wrong, crew cannot be ejected from the vehicle to save their lives. However, the gap between the last shuttle launch and the first Ares launch, which is going to be at least 5 years from now, will make U.S. dependent on other countries such as Russia and China for access to the ISS and space in general. Dr. Graham also mentioned that the remaining shuttle missions will all be aimed towards completing the ISS by 2010, except for the very next mission which will be the last mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. After that, all the money and resources are going to be focused on landing on the moon by no later than 2020.
Dr. Graham went on to talk about why we humans explore and always look for new discoveries and inventions. He believes that this sense is in our DNA and psyche. He also thinks that by doing so we will inspire students, innovations, and economics.
The talk was continued by explaining why we need to go to the moon; the moon has very rich mining resources that can be used both here on Earth and on the moon’s surface itself. These resources can be used to build habitats on the moon and make a permanent base for the future interplanetary manned missions starting with Mars. One of the main reasons to go to the moon is the preparation for the missions to Mars, which requires staying on Mars for one year before coming back to Earth—this means that the crew would be away from Earth for two years.
Dr. Graham then talked about the new launch vehicle Ares that will be used to carry the crew and cargo to the moon. The crew will be sent to the moon using the Ares I rocket. The conceptual design is very similar to that of the Saturn V rocket used in the Apollo program; the crew cabin, Orion, which is capable of carrying 6 people, will be placed on top of the Ares I rocket. Ares I is basically consisted of two stages: 1-first stage which includes five segments and is recoverable, and 2-the upper stage which is not recoverable. These stages are designed by NASA and will be built by Boeing. Cargo will be sent using the Ares V rocket, which is going to be the biggest launch vehicle ever made. Ares V will have 2 stages with six million pound of thrust and it will be more than 300 feet tall. Dr. Graham also mentioned that the design of Ares V is currently undergoing some major modifications. NASA is planning to reuse most of the current facilities at KSC such as the VAB and complex 39 Launch Pad. The role of GRC is to work on the power system of the Ares, and Langley will design the abort system. Glenn is also currently manufacturing the Ares I-X rocket which is suppose to test the staging/separation, Roll and overall vehicle control, aerodynamics and vehicle loads, and dynamics of the first stage recovery of Ares I rocket—Ares I-X is scheduled to be tested in June 2009.
Dr. Graham finished his talk by a quote by T. S. Eliot:
“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”