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Ares-I could be completely unnecessary!
In the early ESAS (september 2005) the first orbital flight of the CEV/Orion was planned for 2012 (two years after the Shuttle retirement) and the first moon landing in 2018, but, many problems occurred in 2006 (design changes, new 5-segments SRB, new J-2x 2nd stage engine, budget cuts, etc.) have shifted the first orbital Orion launch to 2015 (...SO FAR...) and the first moon landing to 2020 (having JUST a DOZEN moon mission in 2020-2025) however, I doubt these will be the last delays, so, the first orbital flight could shift to 2016-2017 and the first moon landing to 2021-2022... !!!
In the same days of the ESAS announcement, 16-19 further Shuttle launches was planned between 2006 and 2010 to finish the ISS and repair the Hubble (a very dangerous mission, in my opinion!) that means the Shuttle is STILL considered SAFE for manned mission, then, "FULLY OPERATIONAL".
But, it the Shuttle IS safe for a further dozen of manned missions, WHY we can't consider it EQUALLY safe for TWO or THEEE dozens of manned missions??? In other words, WHY do we can't STILL use the Shuttle between 2010 and 2020 for a dozen+ of ISS resupply/crew rotation missions?
EACH Shuttle flight can "rotate" THREE TIMES the crew (six astronauts + commander and pilot) than a Soyuz (two astronauts + one russian pilot) and TEN TIMES the cargo of a Progress (24+ mT vs. 2.4 mT only) or THREE TIMES the cargo of a (not so cheap...) ATV (8-9 mT) !!!
If the Shuttle will remain "in service" it can (also) be used to launch a BETTER and SAFER version of the Orion (resized to fit the 4.6 m x 18.3 m Shuttle's cargo-bay) to accomplish the (planned) 12 moon missions and SOONER (maybe) from 2014 !!!
Thanks to the Shuttle and a resized Orion, the Ares-I could become COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY saving up to TEN YEARS and $7 billion of R&D time and costs!
Also, the new (Soyuz/Shenzhou looking) 4.3 m Orion could be BETTER and SAFER thanks to the new Habitat Module (HM) with its own navigation system, energy source and life support, able to allow an (surviving!) ApolloXIII-like contingency in (BOTH) the earth-moon AND moon-earth travels!!!
And, since the Shuttle can carry 24+ mT to LEO, the newOrion can be bigger than its current cone-only version and made with THREE modules: a (smaller) Command Module (CM) 4.3 m capsule (mainly used for earth re-entry) a LARGE Habitat Module (HM) and the Service Module.
The total internal habitable space of the CM+HM modules could be up to TWICE than the (current) 5 m Orion and much more comfortable (having, also, a Shuttle-like toilet...) without increase too much the total mass, also, the HM can used as airlock (a very useful feature missed in the cone-only Orion).
Since this version of Orion will be carried to LEO with the Shuttle, it doesn't need any Launch Abort System (LAS) motor nor any fairing, interstages, SM cover, etc. resulting in a further weight & money saving that can be used to design a BETTER vehicle!
And, if a moon mission will deleted after launch, the Orion will be NOT lost, since the Shuttle will bring back to earth the Orion safely to use it for an upcomig moon mission!
Of course, the moon missions always need the AresV that (thanks to the deleted Ares-I and the $7+ billion saved!) NASA can start to develop and build NOW to be ready to fly in 2014-2015 instead of 2020-2022... !!!
A futher useful suggestion (to save very much time and money!) is to design the AresV using ONLY the (ready available) RS-68 engines and the (ready available and cheap) 4-segments (standard) SRB (like suggested in my Super SLV article) so, the AresV will be ready to fly SOONER... :)
After an Orion launch, the Shuttle must come back to earth and land on the KSC runway without a crew, but that flight-option already is built-in the Shuttles and (from 2006) the "Shuttle automatic return kit" is a standard part of the Shuttle "toolbox" in ALL flights.
April 25 - 2007
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Copyright © 2007 Gaetano Marano - All rights reserved - base images used for the drawings are © NASA