|Project Constellation (back to contents)|
Project Constellation is a NASA program to create a new generation of spacecraft for human spaceflight, consisting primarily of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, the Orion crew capsule, the Earth Departure Stage and the Lunar Surface Access Module. These spacecraft will be capable of performing a variety of missions, from Space Station resupply to lunar landings.
Most of the Constellation hardware is based on systems originally developed for the Space Shuttle, although Orion's two-part crew and service module system is heavily influenced by the earlier Apollo Spacecraft. Proposed Constellation missions may employ both Earth Orbit Rendezvous and Lunar Orbit Rendezvous techniques.
On July 31, 2005, the Orlando Sun published the first story detailing NASA's thinking on Project Constellation. This is the earliest concept drawing that I have in my collection.
|Discarded System Concepts|
|These Boeing renderings are actually from the Orbital Space Plane project, which predated Project Constellation. Earth orbit, translunar and martian travel modes are shown below.|
Right now, NASA is looking for private partners to fund the lunar portion of the program, and funding the Mars portion is considered politically impossible by most members of congress.
|Energia was the rocket that the Soviet Space Shuttle Buran was strapped to. The Energia Rocket was capable of lofting 100 tons into orbit. The Block A with four strap-on boosters was intended to be reusable, although reusablity doesn't necessarily save money! I don't think that NASA, who had a shuttle-industrial complex to feed, seriously considered this proposal. By the way, I found a video on Youtube showing the Energia launching the Polyus weapons platform in 1987. This thing is enormous, and it yaws wildly on lift-off!|
|NASA came to the conclusion early on that if Project Constellation used the existing Space Shuttle industrial complex, it would be a lot easier to sell it to congress. As the program advanced however, more and more of the shuttle dropped away. Plans to use the existing shuttle stack with a cargo carrier rather than a shuttle was discarded. Plans to use the Space Shuttle Main Engines were also discarded. The Solid Rocket Boosters do play a major roll as the first stage of the Ares I and in their traditional roll as strap-on boosters on the massive Ares V.|
|Approved System Concept|
|The final concept ended up being a technologically up-to-date, heavier lifting version of the Apollo program. NASA had to undergo a wrenching process to backtrack from the winged spaceplane concept back to the capsule concept. Because of the limited thrust-to-weight ratio of chemical fuel, NASA was forced to build a very delicate spaceplane. Quite frankly, the capsule on top of a rocket is the safest way to go with chemical propulsion, and you have to credit NASA with admitting that.|
|Crew Exploration Vehicle (Orion) (back to contents)|
|The latest specifications for the Orion spacecraft are available at Astronautix.com, and they also have an excellent history of the CEV as well.|
The Orion Crew & Service Module (CSM) stack consists of two main parts: a conical Crew Module (CM), and a cylindrical Service Module (SM) which will hold the spacecraft's propulsion system and expendable onboard supplies. Both are based heavily on the Apollo Command & Service Modules (Apollo CSM) flown between 1967 and 1975, but include advances derived from the Space Shuttle program. "Going with known technology and known solutions lowers the risk," according to Neil Woodward, director of the integration office in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
|Discarded CEV Concepts|
|The Soyuz used to have a second, habitable compartment for on-orbit use only (jettisoned before reentry), so Boeing took a shot at it, but NASA decided not to go this route.|
|Boeing / Northrop Grumman|
|Northrop Grumman partnered with Boeing in their unsuccessful attempt to win the Crew Exploration Vehicle contract. Note the dual engines on the rear of the Service Module.|
|Lockheed really works hard. They put all the effort into this design, and then turned on a dime and won with their capsule design. This design reminds me of the new Russian Kliper intended to replace Soyuz if anyone would care to fund it, which they don't.|
|Here are a variety of Nasa non-shuttle concepts. On the left, ISS Emergency Return Vehicle (unrelated to Orion), a 1990's era image from the Space Exploration Initiative, and right a 2004'ish concept of Orion.|
|United Space Alliance|
|United Space Alliance was formed by Lockheed and Rockwell in 1995 to handle the launching of the Space Shuttle. They would like to handle the launching of Ares rockets as well. These images appeared in November 2006 in their company magazine.|
|Approved CEV Concept|
|NASA finally settled on an Apollo-like capsule, but much larger and capable of holding a larger crew. This capsule will be reusable, and its service module will sport solar panels.|
|Lockheed Designs the CEV|
|In September, 2006 Lockheed Martin beat out Boeing to design and build the Crew Excursion Vehicle, now known as the Orion Spacecraft. Note that the solar panels are now round, and more detail is emerging of the service module. Lockheed does a great job of releasing high res solid model images of their work, which I appreciate!|
|Lockheed Images pre-2007|
|These were generated by Lockheed to illustrate their plans should they win the bidding, and they did.|
|Lockheed Images 2007|
|More great images of design revision 606.|
|Lockheed Images 2008|
|Lockheed numbered its designs starting at 600. There are two design revisions in play - 606 which uses airbags to land on the ground, and 607 which deletes the airbags for a water landing only.|
|Andrews Space mockup|
|What's the first thing you do when starting a new spaceship design? Get out the jig saw and start cutting plywood! Andrews Space helped NASA with its concept planning and built this mockup, pictures of which I downloaded in October 2005. This is a model of the initial 5.4 meter diameter capsule; the current design was reduced to about 5 meters to save weight, which still gives 2.5 times the interior volume of Apollo. As of July, 2008, the CEV crew is reduced to four.|
|Service Module Mockup|
|Somebody put some real effort into an a half-section Orion Service Module mockup at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH. These were taken in December, 2006 by one of the NASA volunteers who built it.|
|Launch Abort System Test|
|Boeing wasn't left out after Lockheed got the Orion contract. They just released these cool image sequences of their proposed Launch Abort System test. Boilerplate construction began in 2007 - see the picture sequence here.|
|2nd Stage & LAS Test|
|This is a test of the launch abort system at high speed and altitude. NASA has obtained an old Peacekeeper Missile to refurbish for this test. I am reminded of the Little Joe tests of the Apollo Launch Escape System.|
|The Ares Rocket Family (back to contents)|
|The Ares I Integrated Vehicle|
|Astronautix.com has the latest specifications for the Ares I|
From from wikipedia...
Ares I is the crew launch component of Project Constellation. Unlike with the Space Shuttle, where the crew and cargo were launched simultaneously on the same rocket, the plans for Project Constellation outline having two separate launch vehicles, the Ares I and the Ares V, for crew and cargo, respectively. Having two separate launch vehicles will allow for more specialized designs for the different purposes the rockets will fulfill. The Ares I rocket is specifically being designed to launch the Orion Crew Vehicle. Orion is intended as a crew capsule, similar in design to the Project Apollo capsule, to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, the Moon, and eventually Mars.
|The 1st Stage (ATK Launch Systems)|
|ATK, which currently builds the Space Shuttle's SRB's, will construct the Ares I first stage. Vibration from this stage reverberating through the rest of the rocket has become a major technical obstacle in the design of the Ares I rocket.|
|The 2nd Stage (Boeing)|
|The Instrument Ring|
|The instrument ring is located on top of the 2nd stage. It provides all control and guidance for the Ares I rocket during launch. The Ares I cross sectional mockup (right) was photographed at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH, during the summer of 2005|
|The Ares I-X Rocket|
|The Ares I-X is the version of the Ares I rocket they are building for the flight test in Fall, 2009. The first stage will have only 4 of the 5 segments loaded with solid rocket fuel, with the fifth acting as a dummy. The second stage and CEV will also be boilerplates. The flight of the Ares I-X will test the performance and control of the first stage, and demonstrate separation and recovery of the first stage. The second stage and CEV dummy's will then continue on in a ballistic trajectory to crash, uncontrolled, into the ocean.|
Actual hardware photos are available on my hardware page.
|The Ares V Rocket|
|Astronautix.com has the latest specifications for the Ares V|
The Ares V is a cargo rocket designed to carry payloads, such as the Altair Lunar Lander and Earth Departure Stage into orbit to meet up with the CEV capsule launched separately by the Ares I rocket. In June, 2008, NASA increased the payload capacity of the Ares V from 70 to 78 tons, increased its length from 361 to 381 feet and added a sixth RS-68 engine to the first stage.
|Ares V Large Space Telescope|
|Now that you've built the Ares V, what else can you use it for? In June, 2007, NASA proposed that a telescope with a mirror in the 6 to 8 meter range could be put into a Lagrange-2 orbit (a sort of balancing orbit between the earth and the moon). The Ares V can hoist 130,000 kG into orbit, 8% more than the Saturn V. You can see that the proposed telescope's mirror would be much larger than the 2.4 meter mirror on the Hubble.|
One interesting feature is that the optics package would be located at the base of the unit so that it could be ejected and a remote spaceship could insert a new one.
|Rocket Engines (back to contents)|
|Initially, NASA was going to use Space Shuttle Main Engines to power Ares rockets, but it was decided that there were less expensive alternatives, especially since the Ares rockets return to the days of discarding the engines after every launch, rather than reusing them like on the Space Shuttle.|
|The J-2 rocket engine burns liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, and was installed on the second stage of the Saturn V moon rocket (in a cluster of 5), and as the sole engine on the third stage, where it was restartable in space.The J-2X is a modern redesign for the second stage of the Ares I rocket. I have photos of the J2-X test bed on my hardware page. You can also check out wikipedia for details.|
In August, 2007, a 1.2 billion dollar contract was let to Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne to develop and test the J2X.
|The RS-68 is a liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen engine with a thrust level about 3 times that of the J-2X. It is planned to use six of these engines to power the first stage of the Ares V rocket. This venerable engine has been in service lofting Delta IV rockets since 2002. My hardware page has photos of the RS-68 firing, and you can also check out wikipedia.|
|The Earth Departure Stage (back to contents)|
The Ares V Earth Departure Stage (EDS) is the high-energy cryogenic upper stage of NASA's proposed new Ares V launch vehicle. Its purpose is to provide propulsion for the Orion spacecraft as part of Project Constellation operations in Earth orbit, near-Earth space, and beyond. Unlike the S-IVB stage of the earlier Saturn V launcher, which had to propel the entire Apollo spacecraft (i.e. both the Apollo Command/Service Module and Lunar Module) into both a low Earth "parking" orbit and then again to the Moon, the EDS will boost only the Orion spacecraft's Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) into space; the Orion CSM stack will be launched separately atop an Ares I launch vehicle and will link up with the EDS/LSAM on orbit, a method known as Earth Orbit Rendezvous (EOR), a technique considered by NASA and Dr. Wernher von Braun for the Apollo program in the early stages of planning, but was dropped in favor of the lunar orbit rendezvous approach. Once all vehicle components are properly configured, the EDS will restart and propel the complete Orion spacecraft to Earth escape velocity for transits to lunar orbit and other destinations.
|The Altair Moon Lander (back to contents)|
|Astronautix.com has the latest specifications for the LSAM|
The Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) will be the main transport vehicle for lunar-bound astronauts. Like its Apollo Lunar Module (LM) predecessor, the LSAM consists of two parts: an ascent stage which houses the four-person crew, and a descent stage which has the landing legs, the majority of the crew's consumables (oxygen and water), and scientific equipment. Unlike the Apollo LM, the LSAM is to touch down in the lunar polar regions favored by NASA for future lunar base construction. The LSAM, like its Apollo predecessor, is not reusable and is discarded after use.
|2006 NASA Proposal|
|Its a bigger version of the 1960's era Lunar Lander. Boy, those astronauts sure are perched up high when they get out of the ascent module...|
|2007 Lockheed Martin Proposal|
|Lockheed Martin has this thoughtful proposal on how to design a better lunar lander. We all know that in 2006 NASA was primarily focused on the Orion Spacecraft, and has yet to put a lot of thought into the LSAM. I feel that we can do much better than the 2006 proposal...|
|NASA names it Altair; December, 2007|
|NASA's thinking on the physical configuration of the lunar lander continues to evolve.|
|Near Earth Asteroid Mission (back to contents)|
|In August, 2007, Digital Space, a contractor for NASA, came up with a mission to use the Orion Spacecraft to land humans on a near Earth asteroid. This is an interesting concept. The gravity on an asteroid would be quite low - would the astronauts have to be tethered? It would be less like a landing and more like a docking!|
|New Space Suits (back to contents)|
|NASA is working on new space suits for the Project Constellation astronauts. The current shuttle EVA suits weigh 300 pounds and are not designed for use on low gravity bodies, such as the moon. The Apollo suits were very rigid and hard to work in. The new suits should solve both these problems.|
|Pad 39b & Escape System (back to contents)|
|Here is a cool new feature of the Ares I launch pad - a roller coaster style "Emergency Egress System". If the crew needs to leave the launch pad in a hurry, they will hop into the coaster cars and zoom straight down the 380 foot high tower, leveling out and using their high speed to roll away from the pad to the bunkers.|
|Moon & Mars missions (back to contents)|
|These inspiring images show astronauts living and working on the Moon and Mars. I archived these from NASA in August, 2006 but I think they are a couple years older.|
|Models (back to contents)|
|The kit modeling industry is hot on the heels of NASA as development of Project Constellation continues.|