Ares V Rocket Gets an Upgrade: It will be Bigger and Stronger for 2020 Moon Mission (Video)

by Ian O'Neill on June 26, 2008

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The future of space travel - Artist impression of Ares V on the launch pad (NASA)
NASA announced on Wednesday that the original Constellation project’s principle rocket, the Ares V, will need to be designed to carry a larger payload for manned missions to the Moon by the year 2020. This means the original concept will need to have a length extension of 20 feet (6 metres) and will need to use six main engines at its base, rather than the current five. This upgrade will be capable of sending far more instrumentation into space, an extra 15,600 lb (7,000 kg, or the equivalent mass of a male African elephant)…

When the Shuttle is retired in 2010, there is going to be a five-year gap before the Constellation Program prepares its first Ares launch. There can therefore be little room for setbacks in the design phase of the Ares rocket system as there are already concerns for the US dependence on Russia to provide access to space between 2010 and 2015.

In a move to make the heavy-lift vehicle more robust (predicting an increased launch thrust requirement) to send four astronauts, a lunar lander plus supplies, NASA has announced the Ares V rocket will be “beefed up” to cater for our future needs to get man back to the Moon. This huge vehicle is now designed to carry payloads of over 156,600 lb (71,000 kg), some 15,600 lb (or 10%) more than the original concept. Ares V was originally designed to be approximately the same length as the original Saturn V lunar rocket (361 feet or 110 metres long), but to accommodate an extra booster engine and extra payload volume, Ares V will be 381 feet (116 metres) long. That’s the height of a 38-story building. This increased capability will obviously be of huge benefit to the future lunar and Mars missions.

These design alterations were announced after a nine-month study to investigate whether NASA could succeed in its goal to be ready for a return mission to the Moon in 2020, and a manned mission to Mars afterwards. Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley is upbeat about the study’s findings. “This extensive review proves we are ready for the next phase: taking these concepts and moving forward,” he said.

The Constellation Program will use a two-step method for getting man and machine into space. The Ares V will launch heavy payloads, using its superior power, whilst the smaller Ares I will be used as a general low-mass/manned transit vehicle. For large missions, both Ares V and Ares I launch vehicles will be used, allowing astronauts to dock with their equipment in space before travelling to the Moon and beyond.

View the excellent NASA visualization of what it will be like to see the Ares V and Ares I rockets launch and enter Earth orbit and dock before beginning their mission »

All I know is, whether Constellation is completed on time or not, I’ll be at the launch to watch the awesome Ares V lift off from Cape Canaveral…

Source: Space.com

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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Ian O'Neill June 26, 2008 at 4:47 PM

I’ll meet you there! Seeing a Saturn V or the Shuttle launch must be the most incredible experiences I can imagine. I want to see Ares V’s first launch. Something to tell the grandkids :-)

Launch party I think, might start planning one now!

Cheers, Ian :D

Huron June 26, 2008 at 11:25 AM

Why isn’t NASA considering using the Ares V to launch both the Orion, the lander, and Earth Departure Stage?

Huron June 26, 2008 at 11:26 AM

Ugh…shouldn’t have that “both” in there.

Astrofiend June 26, 2008 at 4:17 PM

I will travel to America just to watch one of these launch. Awesome!

Maxwell June 26, 2008 at 5:50 PM

I think they are trying to split off the missions by splitting the rockets.

They need a cheap and safe low earth orbit ferry.
So you have a tricked out capsule with solid rocket booster.

They need a heavy lift rocket for lobbing payloads.
So you also have an autonomous cargo ship.

Theres no need to travel with your cargo on the way up from the surface, so long as you can meet it in space. So it would safe cost on the payload rocket while not making the astronauts ride any more dangerous.

The last part is making it capable of a ground landing so you can save money on the recovery.

Chuck Lam June 27, 2008 at 5:06 AM

Larger is not necessarily better. Smaller is more economical, practical and safer. If a vehicle is lost, the negative impact on the project will be lessened. Too many “eggs in one basket” is risky!

Florian June 27, 2008 at 6:14 AM

I wonder if the 71000kg payload are to LEO or the Moon?
And what about the payload dimensions and volume?
Does anyone know?

Al Hall June 27, 2008 at 6:33 AM

Ian, Astrofiend -
I’ll be there, as well.

Al Hall June 27, 2008 at 6:45 PM

William H. Millard -

What???….

Rusty June 27, 2008 at 9:00 PM

…must still be some good drugs up there in Madison…sounds like someone’s nearly in space already! ;)

Rusty June 27, 2008 at 9:03 PM

Seriously, I sure hope I get to see one of these go up someday. I have always wished I could have watched a Saturn V launch in person, and this sounds even bigger/better!

Ryan June 29, 2008 at 3:45 AM

I hope that by launch time I have the funds to travel and see it launch. It is quite a sight. I’ve seen them launch small satalite rockets here in California and it’s beautiful even from 400 miles away. It creates a nice blue trail as it leaves. Quite a sight.

Hokkyokusei June 29, 2008 at 4:51 AM

“Constellation project’s principle rocket, the Ares V”
Shouldn’t that be princiPAL rather than princiPLE?

Sam D. June 29, 2008 at 7:58 PM

Apollo 17 was the only night launch of a Saturn V rocket. It was described by all who witnessed it as a second sun-rise. The Ares V will be larger; I hope someday to witness another night launch as spectacular as that.

adin June 29, 2008 at 11:26 PM

I wonder if they’re “sneaking” in the requirements upgrade to be able to more easily support a manned asteroid mission.

Quite a few friends in the space industry anticipate that the moon mission will be scrubbed in favor of going somewhere new with more direct applicability towards Mars.

stephen June 30, 2008 at 4:47 AM

Why in the age of Miniaturisation , carbon fibre – micro electronics , micro motors and machinery, kevlar , lightweight titanium and aluminum alloys etc and such do NASA need to make the rocket bigger !

They should be making everything smaller – even the astronauts should be smaller (serious) ! send people who weigh 45-75Kg instead of 90-120Kg when you add in the support equipment – oxygen, food ,maximum weight ratings it becomes very significant.

You can make a light weight moon rover vehicle , smaller lighter parts,Smaller but stronger capsules, design everything smaller and lighter with bigger safety margins , extra fuel , and ultimatly achieve more with less !.

Al Hall July 2, 2008 at 12:13 PM

They should have been taking off from a runway by now..

ANDREW OLIVER SATCHELL September 26, 2008 at 10:41 AM

GOOD

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