The Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV), a key component of NASA's blueprint for the next generation of spacecraft to take humans back to the moon, is being designed and built by engineers at NASA s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). The vehicle s design is based on the results of NASA's 2005 Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), which called for development of a crew-launch system to reduce the gap between Shuttle retirement and Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Initial Operating Capability, identification of key technologies required to enable and significantly enhance these reference exploration systems, and a reprioritization of near- and far-term technology investments. The Upper Stage Element (USE) of the CLV is a clean-sheet approach that is being designed and developed in-house, with element management at MSFC. The USE concept is a self-supporting cylindrical structure, approximately 115' long and 216" in diameter, consisting of the following subsystems: Primary Structures (LOX Tank, LH2 Tank, Intertank, Thrust Structure, Spacecraft Payload Adaptor, Interstage, Forward and Aft Skirts), Secondary Structures (Systems Tunnel), Avionics and Software, Main Propulsion System, Reaction Control System, Thrust Vector Control, Auxiliary Power Unit, and Hydraulic Systems. The ESAS originally recommended a CEV to be launched atop a four-segment Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) CLV, utilizing an RS-25 engine-powered upper stage. However, Agency decisions to utilize fewer CLV development steps to lunar missions, reduce the overall risk for the lunar program, and provide a more balanced engine production rate requirement prompted engineers to switch to a five-segment design with a single Saturn-derived J-2X engine. This approach provides for single upper stage engine development for the CLV and an Earth Departure Stage, single Reusable Solid Rocket Booster (RSRB) development for the CLV and a Cargo Launch Vehicle, and single core SSME development. While the RSRB design has changed since the CLV Project's inception, the USE design has remained essentially a clean-sheet approach. Although a clean-sheet upper stage design inherently carries more risk than a modified design, it does offer many advantages: a design for increased reliability; built-in extensibility to allow for commonality/growth without major redesign; and incorporation of state-of-the-art materials, hardware, and design, fabrication, and test techniques and processes to facilitate a potentially better, more reliable system. Because consideration was given in the ESAS to both clean-sheet and modified USE designs, this paper will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches and provide a detailed discussion of trades/selections made that led to the final upper stage configuration.
Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
57th International Astronautical Congress; Oct 02, 2006 - Oct 06, 2006; Valencia; Spain