The Ares Rockets
The Ares rockets were two now-cancelled launch vehicles that were to have replaced the retired space shuttles. The Ares I rocket was designed to send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft into low Earth orbit, while the larger Ares V booster would have supported human missions to the moon, asteroids and Mars. The rockets were named after the Greek god Ares, known as Mars by the Romans.
Ares V Rocket
The Ares rockets were begun under the George W. Bush Administration, but they were canceled by the Obama Administration in 2010 due to cost overruns and schedule delays. Due to Congressional pressure, the Ares V has survived largely intact as the Space Launch System, a heavy-lift launcher set to debut in 2017. Ares I is being developed as a commercial rocket in modified form by its builder, ATK.
The Ares rockets were derived from proven space shuttle technology. The Ares I first stage was a modified, extended version of the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) used to boost the shuttle into orbit. The SRB, which was never designed to fly solo, was extended from four to five segments to provide more power and fitted with control systems to allow for independent flight.
The Ares V rocket looked similar to the space shuttle launch system, only without the orbiter. It used five-segment SRBs with an elongated external fuel tank as the first stage. Modified versions of the space shuttle main engines were to be fitted under the fuel tank.
Both Ares I and Ares V rockets featured a new upper stage, powered by the J-2X engine, which was derived from the J-2 engine used in the Saturn V second and third stages during the Apollo program. The Orion crew vehicle would have sat atop both rockets.
The Ares rocket program was beset by cost overruns and schedule delays which resulted from underfunding and the difficulty of adapting space shuttle hardware to new uses. When President Barack Obama entered office in 2009, he appointed a committee led by space industry veteran Norm Augustine to review the troubled status of NASA's post-shuttle human spaceflight program.
Based upon the Augustine Committee's report, the Obama Administration canceled the two Ares rockets and the Orion spacecraft in favor of funding the development of commercial systems to fly crews into orbit. The Administration deferred work on the heavy-lift booster for deep space exploration for several years, allowing for research into new technologies that would make flights more affordable.
Congress didn't like the plan, and a battle with the Administration ensued. The result was that the Ares I was canceled, but the Orion crew program was saved for deep space missions. The Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, which is supporting the development of private vehicles for human orbital missions, was also funded.
Ares V survived largely intact as the Space Launch System. SLS is set to debut with an unmanned flight in 2017 with the capacity to carry a 70-metric ton payload into Earth orbit. An upgraded version of the rocket with a 130-metric ton lifting capacity will fly humans into deep space beginning in 2021.
ATK is adapting the Ares I rocket for a new booster called Liberty. The rocket includes the Ares I first stage with a modified version of Europe's Ariane 5 first stage on top of it. ATK has entered the rocket into NASA's CCDev competition.
Links for Ares Rockets