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NASA Direct 2.0: The Launch Vehicle - Better than Ares?

06/23/2008 10:23 AM

There is mumbling going on about the viability of Ares as a replacement launch vehicle for the Shuttle. Indeed, Congress is considering adding an extra launch to the Shuttle line up and if Ares follows the typical design path, there will be even more delays on the horizon.

The Ares launch system is a formidable system on paper with a lift capacity that dwarfs the current Shuttle LEO abilities. However, I have talked to insiders about the Ares and there is a large issue with "shake". Shake is the oscillations in thrust due to using solid rocket boosters as a significant portion of the rocket's lift.

SRBs as they are known, are basically a mega Estes model rocket engine. Once lit, they burn at a predetermined rate until the fuel is exhausted. The advantage is the fuel to boost ratio of a SRB is much higher than a liquid propellant. SRBs burn at a set rate that can not be changed, but they also have a large degree of variability in their thrust, so you get oscillations in the thrust capacity which is called shake.

The shake is so bad that the Ares is likely to break up en flight.

There are rumors going around that NASA is playing down or suppressing an alternative plan drafted shortly after the Challenger Accident where the Shuttle's main tank is directly fitted with Delta 4 engines and the two SRBs are left in place. A cargo section is added on top of the main tank and a crew capsule is also possible.

I don't know if the plan really can deliver what advocates claim, but I will try to see what my inside contacts have to say.

Meanwhile, here is an article on one proposal called the Direct 2.0 Launch Vehicle.

Direct 2.0

Here is a link to Ares:

Ares 1-X

Pathfinder Tags: NASA Ares Direct 2.0
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