Friday, October 24, 2008
Replacing the Space Shuttle...
Because I shoot video for NASA, I am always thinking about rockets, engines, avionics, ullage motors, friction stir welding, aluminum lithium panels, load cells, etc. I don't understand 99% of what I shoot, but I do try to have a basic understanding...I think it helps me do a better job capturing whatever test I happen to be documenting.
That being said, I am amazed and saddened by the number of people who have no idea what will be replacing the Shuttle. Why replace the Shuttle? Well, the design is over 35 years old and was never intended to leave low Earth orbit. It was designed to perform multiple roles, launching both cargo and people while at the same time conducting microgravity experiments and repair and maintenance missions. However, because of this "all in one" approach, the cost of launching 1 pound into orbit is still about $10,000, well below other countries who just launch satellites for less than half of that.
The Shuttle will be retired in 2010 and in the meantime, a new family of rockets is being developed.
The rocket on the left is the Ares I and it will be used to launch the crew to orbit.
The rocket on the right is the Ares V and it will launch everything that is not an astronaut to orbit.
You may not hear much about these rockets right now, but NASA has been working on the Ares I for the last 3 years.
During that time, we at Marshall TV have been documenting the development and construction of the Ares I rocket. We have traveled from coast to coast, north to south, shooting high definition video and producing Ares Quarterly Progress Reports (quarterly as in every 3 months...)
Here is the most recent Ares QPR...
Ares Projects Quarterly Progress Report #9 from AresTV on Vimeo.
Here is a little about the Ares I rocket...it will launch from the Kennedy Space Center, just like the Shuttles...
The Ares I will carry 6 astronauts to the International Space Station or 4 astronauts to the moon. They will be in a capsule called Orion and it will sit on top of the rocket...no more worry about foam damage.
The Ares I is divided into 2 basic parts...the First Stage and the Upper Stage.
The First Stage is a 5 segment solid rocket (the shuttle uses two 4 segment solids...) with a liquid fueled Upper Stage. The Upper Stage engine is a J-2X, which is derived from the Apollo era J-2 engine, which powered the second and third stages of the Saturn V.
After launch, the First Stage will separate from the Upper Stage...and the single J-2X engine will power the Upper Stage to orbit.
Pretty simple, huh?
Here is a comparison of the Saturn V, the Space Shuttle and the new Ares I
Last but not least, here is some NASA animation of what the Ares I launch will look like...
The Ares V is not currently under construction...all of NASA efforts are being used to get the Ares I flying as quickly as possible to reduce the gap between the Shuttle being retired and Ares I starting. That way, we will be depending on the Russian Soyuz for a shorter time to get to the International Space Station.