Report: NASA Could Fly Heavy-Lift Vehicle By 2012

Jupiter Direct Launcher Variants
Jupiter Direct Launcher Variants

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 “In Line” 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 Ares’ 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 – moving away from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based around the development of a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle.

While Ares I’s role for International Space Station (ISS) missions heads to a commercial service provider, the HLV will be contracted out – not unlike NASA already does to some extent with the shuttle – 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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