DIRECT Team Disputes NASA Analysis of Ares Alternative

The DIRECT group – which is promoting an alternative lunar architecture to NASA’s Ares program – has issued a report criticizing the space agency’s critique of its rocket design as inadequate.

DIRECT’s 115-page PowerPoint response claims that NASA’s October 2007 review of the proposed Jupiter launch system included “significant flaws in the evaluation of DIRECT that set up a scenario where DIRECT would inevitably look inferior when compared to Ares.

“The errors are so numerous that the only conclusion possible is that this document cannot be used to properly assess the value of the DIRECT alternative,” the document says.

The document’s summary reads:

These significant errors, misinterpretations, insertions and deletions, incorrect assumptions and the resulting skewing of the DIRECT architecture components are apparent throughout the October 2007 analysis document. These include but are not limited to:

  • Clearly identified design criteria, which fundamentally define DIRECT, were replaced with alternative options known to have sub par performance.
  • Cost criticisms were focused on very narrow bands of expenditures and pointedly excluded the most substantial areas, such as development costs.
  • The analysis ignores the fact that Jupiter is a single vehicle flying in two flight configurations and instead evaluates DIRECT as if it were two independent designs.
  • The analysis misappropriated the range of options the DIRECT architecture makes possible, such as the use of orbital Propellant Depots and EML staging, and applied them as if they were baseline criteria.
  • The document inaccurately portrays DIRECT mission safety constraints and values, using numbers extracted from non-official, outdated and superseded sources.
  • The analysis understates the logistical and infrastructure requirements of a full VSE lunar program in order to avoid comparing DIRECT to Ares.
  • The Launch Vehicle that was the subject of the analysis, while referred to throughout as DIRECT’s Jupiter launch vehicle, was in fact nothing of the kind. It resembled the Jupiter but the design did not conform to the fundamental design parameters of DIRECT’s Jupiter Launch Vehicle. It was this vehicle that was analyzed, not DIRECT’s Jupiter.
  • The DIRECT organization was never contacted to discuss this analysis, to fact check any items or criteria used to inform the analysis or to clarify any of the supposed issues.
  • Once completed, the analysis was published throughout NASA and its contractor force, without any peer review.
  • The very existence of the analysis was kept secret for a year, with NASA acknowledging it only when forced to by having its existence revealed by an outside journalist.
  • Shortly before going to release, the DIRECT Team has learned that NASA managers are being instructed to familiarize themselves with this 2007 Analysis document and to be prepared to use it as talking points to defend the Ares project against DIRECT.
  • This last point makes it imperative that we provide this point-by-point rebuttal so that the facts are able to stand on their own and speak for themselves, free of the many significant errors identified in NASA’s Analysis of DIRECT.