In accordance with the U.S. Vision for Space Exploration and the nation's desire to again send humans to explore beyond Earth orbit, NASA has been tasked to send human beings to the moon, Mars, and beyond. It has been 30 years since the United States last designed and built a human-rated launch vehicle. NASA is now building the Ares I crew launch vehicle, which will loft the Orion crew exploration vehicle into orbit, and the Ares V cargo launch vehicle, which will launch the Lunar Surface Access Module and Earth departure stage to rendezvous Orion for missions to the moon. NASA has marshaled unique resources from the government and private sectors to perform the technically and programmatically complex work of delivering astronauts to orbit early next decade, followed by heavy cargo late next decade. Our experiences with Saturn and the Shuttle have taught us the value of adhering to sound systems engineering, such as the "test as you fly" principle, while applying aerospace best practices and lessons learned. If we are to fly humans safely aboard a launch vehicle, we must employ a variety of methodologies to reduce the technical, schedule, and cost risks inherent in the complex business of space transportation. During the Saturn development effort, NASA conducted multiple demonstration and verification flight tests to prove technology in its operating environment before relying upon it for human spaceflight. Less testing on the integrated Shuttle system did not reduce cost or schedule. NASA plans a progressive series of demonstration (ascent), verification (orbital), and mission flight tests to supplement ground research and high-altitude subsystem testing with real-world data, factoring the results of each test into the next one. In this way, sophisticated analytical models and tools, many of which were not available during Saturn and Shuttle, will be calibrated and we will gain confidence in their predictions, as we gain hands-on experience in operating the first of two new launch vehicle systems. The Ares I-1 flight test vehicle (FTV) will incorporate a mix of flight and mockup hardware, reflecting a configuration similar in mass, weight, and shape (outer mold line or OML) to the operational vehicle. It will be powered by a four-segment reusable solid rocket booster (RSRB), which is currently in Shuttle inventory, and will be modified to include a fifth, inert segment that makes it approximately the same size and weight as the five segment RSRB, which will be available for the second flight test in 2012. The Ares I-1 vehicle configuration is shown. Each test flight has specific objectives appropriate to the design analysis cycle in progress. The Ares I-1 demonstration test, slated for April 2009, gives NASA its first opportunity to gather critical data about the flight dynamics of the integrated launch vehicle stack, understand how to control its roll during flight, and other characterize the severe stage separation environment that the upper stage will experience during future operational flights. NASA also will begin the process of modifying the launch infrastructure and fine-tuning ground and mission operational scenarios, as NASA transitions from the Shuttle to the Ares/Orion system.
Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference; Jul 08, 2007 - Jul 11, 2007; Cincnnati, OH; United States