NASA makes Constellation decisions

by Chris Bergin

While NASA announced Lockheed Martin as the winner of the multi-billion contract to build the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), NASA has approved the construction of two new Mobile Launchers to be built for the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV).

The two new mobile pads will be a lightweight design, due to the weight capacity of the current crawler-transporters. Two new super crawlers will be built for the CaLV (Cargo Launch Vehicle) – known as Ares V.

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A local engineering firm RS&H are working on design trade offs for the two MLs. The first ML is due to be completed by 2010, with the second by mid 2012. One of the current MLP (Mobile Launch Platforms) will be used for the Ares I-1 test flights.

The new MLs will have a minimal LUT (Launch Umbilical Tower) and FSS (Fixed Service Structure), which – along with the fully loaded solid first stage of the Ares 1 – adds the bulk of the weight which ruled out the use of the current MLPs.

Shuttle operations on Pad 39B will cease on March 31, 2007, with all remaining STS flights utilising Pad 39A – which is currently undergoing an overhaul that is expected to last for another six months.

Pad 39B will see its RSS (Rotating Service Structure) dismantled in 2007, with the existing FSS remaining in place, given it is tall enough for the test flights. However, the LOX Vent Arm and the Crew Access Arm will also be modified to access the interstage and SRB electronics respectively.

These are still under review as the Ares 1 is understood to have been shortened by several meters in a recent – and ongoing – design review.

The modified GOX vent arm – the ET’s beanie cap arm – will be used as an access platform for the dummy stage of the Ares I-1, which will allow workers inside the vehicle’s upper stage at the launch pad.

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