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Orion CEV/CLV: l'esplorazione dello spazio prosegue

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Canceling Ares I Could Prove Costly


Embattled exploration-program managers at NASA say a decision to cancel the Ares I crew launch vehicle development now in favor of a potentially lower-cost effort to human rate the Delta IV heavy would add $14.1 billion - $16.6 billion to the cost of developing the Ares V moon rocket.


In public testimony before the White House panel reviewing NASA's human spaceflight plans, Gary Pulliam, Aerospace Corp. vice president for civil and commercial operations, said his organization finds it will be possible to human rate a Delta IV heavy launch vehicle to carry the Orion crew exploration vehicle for about $3 billion less than it will cost to finish Ares I (Aerospace DAILY, June 12).


That did not include the cost of continuing development of the Ares V heavy lifter without the first- and second-stage precursor work under way as part of the Ares I program, which NASA estimates could cost from $14.1 billion to $16.6 billion more, according to Pulliam.


Michael Gass, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, testified to the panel headed by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine that his company believes it can human rate its big Delta IV faster and cheaper than the "conservative" Aerospace estimates.


"Delta IV heavy provides a safe, low-cost capability to launch Orion, we believe by 2014, with greater than 20 percent performance margin," Gass said June 17.





Another lower-cost alternative to Ares I may be a heavy lifter based on shuttle components but without the winged orbiter, said Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon. He testified that when the Ares I project ran into problems with budget cuts last year, he assigned a small NASA engineering team to review and update plans going back to the old Shuttle-C concept of the 1980s and '90s.


Essentially a cargo shroud with engines mounted on the side of the existing external tank and solid-rocket boosters, the vehicle could be a lower-cost way to get NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and eventually to the moon. However, it would require a lighter and less capable lander than the go-anywhere Altair vehicle currently on hold pending the outcome of the Augustine panel's work.


Shannon stressed that much more analysis is needed to validate the concept, which would use lower-cost throwaway versions of the reusable space shuttle main engines. It would also need to be based on a complete revision of the mission requirements that shaped the current NASA exploration architecture.


The Augustine panel plans more public meetings at NASA field centers that work on human spaceflight, and closed-door sessions to take testimony containing proprietary information. Its report, due by the end of August, will present options to guide President Barack Obama and his staff in deciding whether to continue or change the human spaceflight policy drafted under President George W. Bush.


"In essence, what you decide is going to be the significant influence for the White House, and therefore also for the Congress, in where the space program is going," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), testified to the Augustine panel.



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