1June 25, 2008
NASA Background on Ares Vehicles versus the DIRECT Proposal
SummaryNASA has spent substantial effort over several years to consider many launch concepts, and theAgency stands by its decision to develop the Constellation architecture, which includes the AresI Crew Launch Vehicle and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. NASA has chosen thesesystems based upon significant analysis, and the Agency believes it has the best program in placeto meet our Nation’s future Exploration needs.Shortly after arriving at NASA, Administrator Michael Griffin chartered the ExplorationSystems Architecture Study (ESAS) in May 2005, comprised of experts at NASA Headquartersand across the NASA field centers. All databases, expertise and analytical models were appliedto this critical task. Particular emphasis was placed on the family of launch vehicles that wouldbe needed to support future Exploration goals. A large number of options were evaluated,including quantitative comparisons on the basis of important measures of merit such asdevelopment cost, recurring cost, funding profiles, safety, reliability, development risk, schedulerisk, and other factors. The launch families considered included various Shuttle-derived options,Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-derived options and mixes of the two. Outsideexperts were brought-in to assess the ESAS results.Several of the Shuttle-derived concepts that were considered during ESAS, and in other studies,were similar to the Jupiter system identified as part of the DIRECT proposal. However, usingcurrent ground rules and assumptions, and utilizing validated NASA and industry design andanalysis tools, NASA has determined that the DIRECT proposal is unlikely to achieve its claimsof improved performance, safety and development costs when compared to the Ares I and AresV approach. In addition, the limited data available in the online DIRECT proposal do notsupport the claims of increased safety. Also, analysis shows that the DIRECT proposal wouldcost more than the Ares family in the near-term and also on a recurring launch basis. Finally, theDIRECT proposal would take longer to develop when compared to the Ares vehicles whenfactoring in the extensive core stage development effort and the associated acquisitions.Since completion of the ESAS, NASA has continued to improve the baseline architecture tosignificantly lower life cycle costs of the Ares vehicles. NASA’s analysis confirms that the AresI and V vehicles enable the lowest cost and safest launch architecture which meets the Agency’srequirements for support of the International Space Station, as well as lunar and Marsexploration. Several improvements have been made to the Ares ESAS baseline (such as thedecisions to utilize the J-2X for both the Ares 1 and the Ares V Upper Stage engine and the RS-68 instead of the Space Shuttle Main Engines for the Ares V core engine) which reduced lifecycle costs by several billions of dollars.