$700m gap threatens major delays to Ares test flights/development

by Chris Bergin

Following a NASA Constellation budget review – which found the program has a short term deficit of $700m – managers have presented a re-aligned development and test flight schedule, in an attempt to protect Orion’s debut mission to the ISS in 2015.

Among numerous changes, Ares I-Y is to be delayed by a year, Orion’s 1-3 are delayed between nine and three months, while Ares V’s lunar mission debut with Orion 13 will now be an unmanned fly-by.

Huge amounts of Constellation related insider news, presentations and videos – THE most comprehensive place to follow Ares/Orion development – are available for download on L2. See list at the end of this article.

All of this article is based on documented L2 information. For an overview of how L2 works, **click here for sample**




The reason for the changes relates to additional costs associated with the challenges of Ares I’s development, creating a shortfall of funds for the financial year period 2008 to 2010.

The first hint of a problem was noted in a memo sent to managers at the start of the week, noting some of the slips – and their association with the budget review.

‘Cx (Constellation) program held an all day budget review to establish guidance. Ares 1-Y slipping one year; Orion-1 slipping nine months. Formal guideline package coming soon,’ noted the memo. ‘No new definition for lunar phase, so minimizing lunar budgeting efforts. May do lunar budget this summer after architecture settles out.

‘Working new schedule with slips in Cx dates. May combine some of the test flights. Highest instability is schedule/content of test flights. Bring forward business cases for investments now to save on future ops.’

However, the full extent of the fallout caused by the review is seen in a very recent presentation that was produced to overview the schedule changes.

‘Resolve around $700M CxP resource shortfall FY (Financial Year) 08 through FY10. Establish minimum annual carry out ($s) to improve financial management posture year to year,’ noted the presentation dated Jan, 08. ‘Align project budgets with approved technical plan – add selected Level 1 IOC (Initial Operational Capability) / ISS Ops threats.

‘Maintain internal plan of Orion 4 (FOC – Full Operational Capability) in Sept 2014. Preserve agency commitment of IOC in March 2015. Maintain Human Lunar Return (LSAM 2 / Orion 15) target of June 2019. Maintain Surface Systems and Lunar Outpost wedges. Incorporate Test and Evaluation proposed lunar mission manifest changes.’

The plan spreads test and development work well into the next decade, with only Ares I-X – rumored to be close to a delay itself, though denied by NASA – and the abort tests occurring while the shuttle continues flying. Ares I-Y moves to 2013, while all the Orion test flights are conducted in 2014.

*Click image for full screenshot*

‘IOC (Initial Operational Capability) manifest changes: Holds Orion 4 (FOC – Full Operational Capability) but reduces launch spacing from six months to three months for flights Ares I-Y thru Orion 4 (FOC). Moves Ares I-Y 12 months, Orion 1 nine months, Orion 2 (IOC) six months and Orion 3 three months,’ added the presentation.

‘No schedule constraints – can achieve initial production rate of four units in one year. No additional infrastructure required. Slipped start of production / ops build-up.’

As a side note, the first Orion bulkhead – fabricated from 2195 Al-Li material left over from the External Tank program – was shipped on Thursday, by AMRO Fabricating Corporation, California.

Other notes of interest in the presentation relates to the lunar element of the Constellation plan, with a change to the Ares V-Y test flight, an unmanned Orion 13 mission that will be a fly-by of the moon, and confirmation of the nozzle extension to Ares I for lunar mission – though Ares I’s roll past missions to the ISS is under evaluation due to performance issues.

‘Lunar Sortie manifest changes: Replaced EDS (Earth Departure Stage) and EDS Engine mass sims with flight production units on Ares V-Y. Removed crew from LSAM (Lunar Surface Access Module – Altair) 1 / Orion 13 mission. Added Ares I First Stage nozzle extension to support LSAM 1/ Orion 13 mission.’

Not mentioned in the document are other related delays associated with Constellation, according to sources, such as Ares I work on the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) – delayed by at least a year. The start of the full conversion of Pad 39B to the Ares I configuration – slipping a year.

The new ML (Mobile Launcher) – slipping a year to 18 months. Altair development – slipping two years, and Lunar applications (the Lunar Habitat) – slipping at least two years.

The re-alignment plan – according to the presentation – is part of a long process, which started on January 9, and will continue for some months, as Constellation carry out ‘face-to-face reviews’ with each of its related departments.

Selection of L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: 

Orion 607 Overview Presentation (Jan 08), Constellation Program Status/Budget and new Manifest to Orion 20 Presentation (Jan, 08). Michoud Transition to Ares I/V (Jan 17, 08). Several MLAS (Max Launch Abort System) Presentations. Over 60 Hi Res Images of Orion Mock-up at JSC (Hatch, Seats, Flight Deck) – December. Lunar Habitat Assembly. PRCB Presentations on hardware and infrastruction transition (from Palmdale to MLP Park) ‘Follow live’ Lightning Towers Construction images. Latest Mobile Launcher details. Orion/Ares I/Delta IV Heavy NEO Feasibility Study (Video). Constellation EVA Study Presentation. Superb Gene Kranz address to CxP workforce (Apollo to Orion feature) video. MOD ‘LEO to Mars’ presentations.

Superb Ares I Launch Ascent, Pad Abort Test CGI Videos (three). Integrated Stack (IS) Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) notes – Nov 6 to Nov 15. The full ‘8th Floor News’ – Constellation Update (performance issues) – Nov 5. Ares I Mobile Launcher PMR.

‘Proposed’ Ares I SRBSF (Mini VAB) and graphic. LSAM (LDAC-1) Video and Images. Several Constellation All Hands Videos and Presentations. Ares I Pad Rollercoaster (Old and New presentation and slides – the very cool ‘CGI ride on the Ares pad coaster’ video. Ares I VAB ‘In-Line’ Stacking presentation slides.

Presentation of Ares/Orion impacts relating to Shuttle manifest acceleration. Ares I Interstage diagrams. Ares V Super Crawler. Ares I Launch Pad images (ML etc.) Hi Res images of Ares I-X Upper Stage. Orion 606-7 Data Updates. Updates Constellation launch schedule through to Orion 15. Orion Seat test photos. New ML Graphic and info. New Ares V graphic and baseline data. Large collection of hi res Orion paracute drop tests. SIX Part Series of Ares I Upper Stage Graphical Overviews. DAC-1C DDD Vast Slides on Vehicle Design. ATK First Stage Presentation. 39B Lightning Towers Slides. DAC-1C Departure points to DAC-2 Upper Stage Graphcs (Many Changes).

Orion/CEV Display Layout Presentation (40 pages). ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV. Weather Shield (Rain Shield) for Orion on the pad. New Super hi-res images of Ares I. ATK Cutaway graphics of Ares I – perspective and axonometric. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CEV Paracute Assembly System (CPAS) Presentation.

Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation. Changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS. Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares. Ares I-X Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-X timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-X: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. Escape System Trade Study Presentation. CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.

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