Chair Force Engineer

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Die, Stick, Die

Well, one can only hope, especially if this rumor is true.

Even if Ares I is under-performing, NASA has plenty of options that would retain this rocket that they have grown so attached to. Perhaps ATK can change the propellant grain geometry to increase the thrust, or shift to a more energetic solid propellant. NASA could also negotiate with Lockheed Martin and revise the Orion contract, to make a smaller, lighter, and less-capable capsule that can still be launched on the under-performing Ares I. Finally, NASA could simply settle on a lower insertion altitude for the Orion capsule.

As long as NASA is working under the Congressional mandate to preserve shuttle jobs, Direct Launcher is the best way to launch a moon mission. The agency would be wise to change gears (and launchers) now, before it gets stuck holding "The Stick" without a way of making it work within the schedule and budget constraints.