NASA: Bolden to Review Heavy-lift Rocket Alternatives Today

Bolden to review HLV study on Friday – Sidemount in doubt, In-line/SSME boost

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden will review the findings of his “special team” – which he set up to evaluate all Heavy Lift alternatives to the current plan – on Friday. Pre-empting the overview, Exploration Project officials all-but ruled out the Sidemount HLV, whilst noting a couple of In-line heavy lifters – one of which appears to be a DIRECT Jupiter launch vehicle – made it through to the Bolden meeting….

The only concepts that have received positive attention are variants of vehicles that are not unlike the appearance of an Ares V, one of which is understood to be a Jupiter-241 Stretched Heavy. No further mentions – other than in the NASA Flexible Path findings presentation – have been made to the monster 200mt Heavy Lifter.

Sources expanded on the vehicle that appears most favorable per evaluations, noting an In-line SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) based vehicle, which has a Block-I configuration of 2x 4-seg SRB (Solid Rocket Booster – with 5th segment ’spacer’), 8.4m Stretched Core powered by 4x SSME Block-II, an Upper Stage powered by a cluster of 4-6x RL-10A-4-3, and an EDS (Earth Departure Stage) optimized for LOR (Lunar Orbit Rendezvous).

The Block-II version of this vehicle would consist of 2x 5-seg SRB, 8.4m Stretched Core powered by four expendable SSMEs, with an Upper Stage powered by either a cluster of 4-6x RL-10A-4-3 or a single J-2X, and EDS optimized for LOR. The RL-10A-4-3 variant is based on the RL-10B-2 currently flying on Delta-IV, modified with a fixed nozzle extension, instead of the current extending one.

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