Could a Second Ares I-X Test Flight Close the 5-Year Gap?

Article written: 28 Feb , 2009
Updated: 26 Apr , 2016
by

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Approximately $400 million extra has become available for NASA manned space flight and managers are currently discussing the possibility of using it toward a second test flight of the Ares I-X. The first test flight of the next generation launch vehicle is planned for a summer 2009 launch, and with this extra funding comes the possibility of a second test flight dubbed “Ares I-X prime”. In a renewed vigour for getting the US back to the Moon by 2020, and the looming “5-year gap”, it appears the extra funding may allow NASA to hasten the development of the Constellation Program…

So it turns out the economic stimulus package will affect the development of NASA’s Constellation Program after all, possibly speeding it up. Of growing concern is the fact that it is looking very likely (according to the White House budget blueprint) that the shuttle will be retired as planned in 2010, leaving five long years until the planned 2015 completion of the Constellation Program. This 5-year gap has spawned all kinds of political problems (i.e. depending on the Russian space agency to get US astronauts to the International Space Station), but it has also stimulated investment in private space launch companies.

Although details are still being worked out on how the extra money will be distributed, it is hoped that the $1 billion allocated to NASA from the stimulus package may “save or preserve 7,000 jobs”. The money invested in manned spaceflight could also speed up technological advancement, possibly speeding Constellation progress. Managers hope an extra test-flight of the Ares I-X could also be used to hasten development of prototype flight systems. Doug Cooke, associate administrator for exploration systems, confirmed that to use this extra funding for a second test flight “certainly is within the realm of possibility.”

By laying on a second test flight after the Ares I-X scheduled for this summer, Ares I-X prime could substantially accelerate progress, possibly reducing the 5-year gap by as much as a year. The second flight of the Ares I-X would test the five-segment version of the four-segment solid fuel shuttle booster that will act as the first stage of the Ares I. The solid fuel launch abort system would also be tested at high altitude.

Source: Aviation Week


25 Responses

  1. Spoodle58 says

    Its nice hearing good news about NASA.

    Thanks Ian

  2. Max says

    Its been a while since we’ve had two positive stories about constellation in a row.
    I hope the good news keeps coming.

  3. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Good news. Maybe NASA might even get to the Moon before 2020 now!

    (Ian is THAT OK?)

  4. sps says

    Um…. cool. I was a bit worried about Obama shutting this this down. But this is good news.

  5. KaiYves says

    As much testing as possible is good. Safety is paramount.

  6. Matt says

    “This 5-year gap has spawned all kinds of political problems (i.e. depending on the Russian space agency to get US astronauts to the International Space Station), but it has also stimulated investment in private space launch companies. ”

    This was, imo, more of problem back when Bush was in power. Obama isn’t as likely to let a conflict with Russia escalate as Bush was with his silly missile defence shield.

    Anyway, while it’s great to see more money for human space flight, according to this New Scientist article (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16676-obama-backs-moon-return-in-nasa-budget.html), the science budged of NASA will decline and that’s a damn shame!

    “NASA’s science budget would decline $200 million from 2008 levels. The US Senate is now considering the bill.”

    Funding for science and human exploration can and SHOULD coexist without hindering each other.

  7. Alex Black says

    For the life of me, I can’t understand how putting humans into orbit–accomplished almost a half century ago–has suddenly become so difficult for NASA.

    What idiots they were, for scrapping the old but viable heavy-lift technology of the Saturn 1B and Saturn V. NASA has accomplished some amazing things, but only by the grace of God (and in spite of themselves), it seems.

    Lets hope that NASA becomes wiser than their past record indicates.

    Although the Russians are backwards in some areas technologically, they manage to nearly keep pace with NASA with far fewer resources and older tech. They don’t throw away proven, working technology because something shiny and newer has caught their eye. We have been quite guilty of this, but it is wasteful, and apparently will leave the US stranded on planet Earth for a five year gap, unable even to reach the space station that we assembled in orbit. Need I say more?

  8. The Occupant says

    I just pray that this hurry does lead to a disaster like with AS-204, AKA Apollo 1. This isn’t a race like last time, we are just trying to get back to the moon, and hopefully, to beyond.

  9. KG6YRA says

    Sounds great!

  10. Frank Glover says

    “What idiots they were, for scrapping the old but viable heavy-lift technology of the Saturn 1B and Saturn V. NASA has accomplished some amazing things, but only by the grace of God (and in spite of themselves), it seems.”

    The reason was, as is often the case, money.

    If public support for continued Lunar exploration (or any other Saturn-worthy projects) isn’t there, Congress doesn’t allocate funds to keep producing Saturns and other necessary hardware, and manufacturers don’t keep the tooling for such things around. (Much the same is happening with the Shuttle right now. Some spares are already becoming hard to come by.)

    There are some things NASA doesn’t *get* to decide (He who pays the piper…). Even ISS itself came within one vote of cancellation at one point in its developmental history…

    “They don’t throw away proven, working technology because something shiny and newer has caught their eye.”

    The Russians have had an ongoing program for which that technology was adequate. If you want to do something it can’t do, you need something ‘shiny and new’ Even they had a few new toys they never got to use very much of. (N-1, Energia, Buran…), partly because they never did reach the Moon…

  11. Aqua says

    I understand the logic behind using ‘tried and tested’ technology but also have a major problem with that, i.e. what about the development of NEW ideas? The use of Apollo era technology seems to be taking a big step BACKWARDS. Yah sure, the technology’s been proven, but so has the tech behind Space Ship One and the idea that there are probably much safer ways to get on orbit. I’d like to see NASA use someting like the ‘X-prise’ competition to invigorate independent business contractors. Perhaps a good starting point would be the use of balloon lofted launch platforms or EM rail launchers running up the side of a mountain in place of first stage booster rockets? Solid fuel rockets? Yah sure, lets transport MORE poisonous crap into the upper atmosphere.

  12. Aqua says

    Notilescent cloudworks anyone?

  13. Aqua says

    Oops… spelling duh.

  14. Kevin F. says

    It was a two and a half year hiatus after both Challenger and Columbia, we’d be able to handle five.

  15. Or they could use the money to manrate the Delta IV and cut the gap to 2 years…

  16. Ed Tessmacher says

    Even better than man-rating the Delta IV, would be to dump Ares down the drain and immediately shift to DIRECT. Much more versatile, much more expandable, greater performance margins, less expensive, and a proven NASA design from the get-go. Common parts, standard engineering, better capacity, safer vehicles. We can cut the gap to two years and still get to the moon faster.

  17. Shaula Brant says

    Direct 2.0 would have been the way to go. We could have reused at least some of the tooling left over from previous development, such as that with the SRBs (they are having to go with a larger diameter now, so the current tooling won’t work). We could have also used the tried and true J-2 engine which has been a workhorse since the Apollo era.

  18. gudenboink says

    This is great and surprising news. I figured the Moon – Mars program would be the among the first on the chopping block for the Obama -Bin Biden economic package. It is early…….
    I am still worried though.
    Let’s not kid ourselves, as soon as the Obama honeymoon is over someone will be screaming for more money to free up. The Space program has always been the step child – that’s why we abandoned the moon program 35 years ago.

  19. von Dawson's Express says

    …and what ever happened to the Aries IV circum-lunar mission (aka re-run of Apollo 8), has it died a death?

  20. Max says

    I don’t think a circum lunar flight with the Orion alone is as important as the flight of Apollo 8 was.

    Lets not forget that we aren’t simply “going to the moon”, we’re going back to the moon with a plan to make it part of our permanent routine.
    The intention is to accomplish all the science and exploration that had to be culled last time so they could meet an end of the decade deadline… and in order to do that, we’re going to need heavy lift rockets.
    Of course that’s none of this is any issue until we’re closer to 2020 and lunar flights.

    The block 1 Orion and its Ares I booster don’t need to be made moon capable (yet). They just have to dock with the ISS.
    So to cut the schedule short, more building and more testing of the manned launch component is in order.

  21. RUF says

    “Obama isn’t as likely to let a conflict with Russia escalate as Bush”

    Maybe Russia is more likely to let a conflict escalate with the US because of O-bambi.

  22. Frank Glover says

    “It was a two and a half year hiatus after both Challenger and Columbia, we’d be able to handle five.”

    Don’t forget the years (1975-1981) between the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the first Shuttle flight.

    Of course, we didn’t have an operational space station in orbit at the time…

  23. Neil says

    new money or no, NASA will drop the ball on this. i used to be NASA’s biggest fan, the sky was the limit. now it seems LEO is the limit.

  24. von Dawson's Express says

    Max, BUT what has happened to Aries IV? I know what you are saying but its Aries IV???

    Frank, NASA did have a operational space station, it was called Skylab and was wasted after SL-4 as Neil says ‘NASA will drop the ball on this’ they have dropped bollox before…

  25. Vanamonde says

    Where did this extra 400 million come from? Can I have just one, please?

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