NASASpaceFlight.com is reporting that NASA could conduct a test flight of a heavy-lift rocket as early as late 2012:
The Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) have confirmed they have almost enough External Tank resources to allow for one ET-sized â€œIn Lineâ€ Shuttle Derived Heavy Launch Vehicle (SD HLV) test flight and up to three Block I SD HLVs. The news comes as NASA managers insist the workforce should wait for official news, and not to be distracted by reports on Aresâ€™ demise.
The SD HLV would be along the lines of the proposed Jupiter Direct, a rocket proposed by a group of dissident NASA engineers who were unhappy with the space agency’s Ares I and V programs.
…several NASA departments [are] already carrying out evaluations on one of the major elements of the likely future path for NASA â€“ moving away from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based around the development of a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle.
While Ares Iâ€™s role for International Space Station (ISS) missions heads to a commercial service provider, the HLV will be contracted out â€“ not unlike NASA already does to some extent with the shuttle â€“ moving to a multi-company effort led by Boeing, partnering with Alliant Techsystems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and United Space Alliance (USA), with heavy NASA involvement from Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)….
Even the long-time Constellation supporter, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is understood to be supportive of this alternate plan, along with many of his colleagues.
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