On January 14, 2004 President George W. Bush announced the Orion spacecraft, known then as the Crew Exploration Vehicle as part of the Vision for Space Exploration: "Our second goal is to develop and test a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, by 2008, and to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014. Ares I is the booster that will carry Orion and the Ares V will carry the larger cargo launch vehicle. Orion consists of the Earth Departure Stage (EDS), the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM), and the Ares rocket system as part of NASA's Project Constellation. It will be launched from Kennedy Space Center.
NASA will begin the first lunar expedition by launching a LSAM and a propulsion stage called an Earth Departure Stage (EDS) atop an Aries V heavy lift rocket. The Ares V will be made of a lengthened Shuttle External Fuel Tank and a pair of Solid Rocket Boosters. It will be able to put 125 tons into orbit. That is one and a half time the mass of the Shuttle Orbiter. The cargo in the rocket could be held up to 30 days in orbit until the astronauts launch their Orion spacecraft. The Aries I will carry the Orion Crew and Service Modules atop the rocket consisting of four segments like the ones flow on the Shuttle. Once in low Earth orbit the manned orbiter will dock with the LSAM and the EDS for its trip to the Moon.
Under the goals of NASA's exploration mission, Ares V is a vital part of the cost-effective space transportation infrastructure being developed by NASA's Constellation Program to carry human explorers back to the moon, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.
The Ares V effort includes multiple hardware and propulsion element teams at NASA centers and contractor organizations around the nation, and is led by the Ares Projects Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. These teams rely on nearly a half century of NASA spaceflight experience and aerospace technology advances. Together, they are developing new vehicle hardware and flight systems and maturing technologies evolved from powerful, proven Saturn rocket and space shuttle propulsion elements and knowledge.
The versatile, heavy-lifting Ares V is a two-stage, vertically stacked launch vehicle. It can carry nearly 414,000 pounds (188 metric tons) to low-Earth orbit. When working together with the Ares I crew launch vehicle to launch payloads into Earth orbit, Ares V can send nearly 157,000 pounds (71 metric tons) to the moon.
For its initial insertion into Earth orbit, the Ares V first stage relies on two five-and-a-half-segment reusable solid rocket boosters. These are derived from the space shuttle solid rocket boosters and are similar to the single booster that serves as the first stage for the cargo vehicle's sister craft, the Ares I crew launch vehicle. This hardware commonality makes operations more cost effective by using the same manufacturing facilities for both the crew and cargo vehicles.
The twin reusable solid rocket boosters of the cargo lifter's first stage flank a single, liquid-fueled central booster element, known as the core stage. Derived from the Saturn V, the core stage tank delivers liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants to a cluster of six RS-68B rocket engines. The engines are upgraded versions of those currently used in the Delta IV, developed in the 1990s by the U.S. Air Force for its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and commercial launch applications. Together, these propulsion elements comprise the Ares V's first stage.
Atop the central booster element is an interstage cylinder, which includes booster separation motors. It connects the core stage to the Ares V Earth departure stage, which is propelled by a J-2X main engine. The J-2X, also powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, is an evolved variation of two historic predecessors: the powerful J-2 upper-stage engine that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets to the moon and the J-2S, a simplified version of the J-2 developed and tested in the early 1970s.
Anchored atop the Earth departure stage is a composite shroud protecting the Altair lunar lander, which includes the descent stage that will carry explorers to the moon's surface and the ascent stage that will return them to lunar orbit to rendezvous with the Orion crew exploration vehicle for their return home.
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