From: Anonymous at Marshall Space Flight Center Question(s): An alternative launch vehicle was proposed that has many advantages to Ares I/V. The direct STS derived vehicle offers more mass to orbit at $2B less per year, minimizes changes to the STS launch infrastructure while maintaining existing workforce, provides greater flexibility for lunar architecture options including global access anytime return, enables large science missions, and allows upgrades for Mars exploration. The vehicle is described in a Sept 2007 AIAA paper "Achieving the Vision for Space Exploration on Time and Within Budget", 2007-6231 (www.directlauncher.com). Is NASA considering a seldom encounter option of "better, faster, cheaper" as a slight change to the Ares I/V approach that opened the doors to exploration beyond low earth orbit? If not, why not?
Response: No, we are not examining this concept further at this time, because we have looked at this and similar designs on numerous prior occasions. We conducted a very thorough study of architectural alternatives to meeting our needs for ISS resupply and return to the Moon during the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), over two years ago. At some point, the studying has to stop and the work has to commence. We are well past that point. The suggested approach has numerous shortcomings with regard to meeting our architectural requirements.
This column is not the place to cover all the pros and cons of that approach. If you are interested, I would suggest contacting Steve Cook, of MSFC, directly. As a courtesy, you should copy Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley and ESMD AA Rick Gilbrech.
Editor's note: There is an energetic little group of Internet denizens who love to wave their arms around and posit the notion that they - and they alone - have a solution to all of NASA's problems with the Ares I and V rockets. Technical merits (or lack thereof) aside, anyone who knows Mike Griffin and how he has been running NASA will tell you in a heartbeat that he will simply not deter from his current path so long as he is Administrator. As such all of these Powerpoint concepts are just that - concepts.
However, should Griffin leave or be replaced, the general consenus is that the entire VSE/ESAS universe would be revisited - from stem to stern - with an EELV-based architecture the strong favorite to replace it. If the powers that be reject Ares - they will reject any Shuttle-derived architecture.
Yawn. Next topic.
The Internet is a great way to share ideas. So far it is not the best way to (re)design NASA's rockets. That does not mean that it will not be capable of hosting such a "crowdsourcing" activity in the near future.
-- Just not this week.