White House Weighs Heavy-Lift Alternatives

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NASASpaceflight.com takes a look at the various heavy-lift options being considered by the White House in wake of the Augustine Committee’s report:

2010 will mark a number of key decisions for NASA, not least the potential switch from the current Ares I/V architecture to an alternative mix of commerical crew launch – accompanied by a new heavy lift workhorse. A decision is expected to be announced early in the new year by President Obama, although at least three heavy lift vehicles – including a huge 200mt vehicle – were still being classed as options ahead of the Christmas break….

An extension of the shuttle program – as stated by the Augustine Commission – would only be viable if the follow-on vehicle is a true Shuttle Derived (SD) LV. Two examples were presented to the Augustine Commission, one which is based on a side-mount option – called the SD HLLV (Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle) – and another called the Jupiter LV.

However, another Heavy Lift vehicle came out of the blue in December, via an internal 65 page presentation on NASA’s overview (available on L2) of what it believes can be accomplished via the Flexible Path options, per Augustine Commission.

While the presentation is far-reaching on various mission outlines – including missions to Near Earth Objects (NEOs), GEO Space Telescopes, and manned missions to Mars (all of which will be reported in an upcoming article) – a monster 200 metric ton human rated “Exploration Class” launch vehicle is referenced several times.

Read the full story.