Special Sub-Topic: Vision for Space Exploration
|What name has NASA given to the main project to implement the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE)?|
Constellation. Project Constellation is managed from NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston and is intended to develop the technologies needed to implement the VSE.
Part of the Vision for Space Exploration was the announcement that the Space Shuttle will be retired in 2010 after the completion of assembly of the International Space Station (ISS). Project Constellation will manage the development of a successor to the Shuttle with testing to begin in 2008. It will also develop the unmanned spacecraft needed to survey the moon and Mars in preparation for manned miissions.
|Which of these factors led to the decision to announce the VSE?|
All of these (The loss of the Columbia, An urgent need to replace the aging Shuttle, A lack of direction in the space programme). The loss of the Columbia in February 2003 galvanised action to address long standing issues which had needed to be resolved for many years. The shuttles were nearing the end of their service lives and a decision needed to be made on whether to build a replacement or implement an expensive upgrade. There was also a sense that there was no real goal for the manned space programme after the completion of the International Space Station. After 30 years of operations in low earth orbit there was a feeling it was time to get on with the manned exploration of the solar system after the truncated Apollo programme was cancelled in 1972.
|What is the timetable for the first expedition to return to the moon? |
No later than 2020. Nasa planning calls for the first return-to-the-moon expedition to take place in 2018. It is planned that the technology developed for the return to the moon will be applicable to the first manned Mars expedition which may take place around 2030.
|The centrepiece of the programme goes by the working title of CEV. What do the letters stand for?|
Crewed Exploration Vehicle. The CEV is based on the old Apollo design consisting of a cone shaped crew module and a service module to provide propulsion. The new vehicle will have two and a half times the volume of Apollo and has been dubbed "Apollo on steroids" by Nasa officials.
|The CEV was recently given a name by NASA. What is it?|
Orion. After a 40 year break Nasa has returned to the tradition of giving names to its manned spacecraft programmes. Orion is named after one of the most prominent constellations in the night sky a fitting name for a space vehicle which will be around for many years. The Space Shuttle programme never received a name although the individual vehicles did. Attempts to name the International Space Station dissolved in acrimony over finding one that pleased everyone.
Mercury was the name of Nasa's first manned programme.
Pegasus was the name given to micrometeoroid detection satellites launched in the 1960's.
Apollo mk II was never a programme.
|Which consortium was recently awarded the contract to build the CEV?|
Lockheed Martin. The contract to build the Orion(CEV) was awarded to the Lockheed Martin Corporation in August 2006 over rival Northrop Grumman/Boeing's bid.
Scaled Composites is Bert Rutan's company which built Spaceship One the winner of the X Prize competition in 2004.
Rocketplane-Kistler is a private company developing low cost fully reusable vehicles capable of low earth orbit.
|What name has been given to the booster rockets which will support the VSE?|
Ares. The rockets will be called Ares which is a pseudonym for Mars. This is a fitting designation for rockets which will be the workhorses for project Constellation with the ultimate aim of launching a manned mission to Mars.
Saturn was the workhorse for the old Apollo programme.
Hermes was the name of a cancelled European attempt to build manned spacecraft.
Neptune is the 8th Planet.
|How many versions of the booster rocket for VSE will be built?|
two. Two versions of Ares will be built, and their designations I and V pay tribute to the original Saturn I and V rockets from project Apollo. Ares I will be the launch vehicle for the crewed Orion spaceship with a capacity to launch 25.5 tonnes into low earth orbit. Ares V will be the heavy lift cargo booster with a capacity to launch 125 tonnes into low earth orbit similar to the old Saturn V payload.
|The design of the rockets will use which of these major Space shuttle components? |
Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) and External Tank (ET). The first stage of Ares I will have a five segmented version of the Shuttle's Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) while the heavy lift Ares V will have two five segmented SRB's strapped on either of a core stage developed from the Shuttle External Tank (ET). An earlier proposal to use Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME's) for the Ares V core stage has been dropped in favour of using five cheaper and more powerful RS 68 engines which are used on the Delta IV booster.
Nasa will be pleased to see the last of those troublesome thermal tiles!
|The engine for the upper stage of both versions of the the booster will be an uprated version of one from the old Saturn rockets. Which engine?|
J -2. The upper stages for Ares I and Ares V will be powered by a single uprated version of the J-2 engine designated J-2X burning liquid hydrogen (LH2) liquid Oxygen (LOx). This reliable engine will have multiple restart capability and will boost the Orion into orbit and onward to the moon.
Five F-1 engines powered the first stage of Saturn V
The RL-10 is a smaller LH2 LOx burning engine used for unmanned rocket stages like Centaur.
The RS-68 powers the Delta IV rocket and will be used for the core stage of Ares V.
|How many crew will the CEV be able to carry into earth orbit?|
six. The Orion CEV will be able to carry six crew to the International Space Station in earth orbit. An unmanned version will be used to loft cargo to the ISS and be able to return used and redundant items.
|When is it planned that the first manned flight of of the CEV will take place? |
no later than 2014. The plan is to have the first manned Orion flight in 2014 but Nasa chief
Mike Griffin would like to bring that foward as there will be a four-year gap after the retirement of the Shuttle in 2010.
|A new lunar ferry known as the LSAM will be developed to carry the next generation of astronauts to the moon. What does LSAM stand for?|
Lunar Surface Access Module. The LSAM, which has not yet been given an official name (as of Nov 2006), will be the taxi and initial lunar base for the astronauts. Its full scale development will probably not commence till 2010 when the required funds will be freed up after the retirement of the Shuttle. It will be like a beefed up Apollo Lunar Module with an ascent and a descent stage but have significant differences such as throttleable decscent engines and be powered by high energy LH2 and LOx fuels. An earlier proposal to use liquid methane fuel, which would have application for a Mars mission, has been dropped as the technology is not mature enough to be used in the proposed timetable.
|How many crew will LSAM carry to the moon?|
Four. The LSAM will be able to ferry four astronauts to and from the lunar surface while the Orion CEV is left unmanned in lunar orbit. The initial expeditions will be for a few days extending to several weeks as more experience is gained. The LSAM will have an airlock which will be a big advantage in facilitating EVA (Extra Vehicular Activities) on the lunar surface. The all pervasive nature of lunar dust was the bane of the Apollo astronauts and the presence of an airlock will reduce dust contamination as the LSAM will not have to be depressurised between EVA's.
|How will power be supplied to the CEV?|
Solar panels. The power needs of the Orion CEV will be supplied by a pair of circular solar panels which will be deployed when it reaches orbit. This is similar to the method used by the Russian Soyuz for many years and the Chinese Shenzou manned spacecraft. Previously Nasa has favuored fuel cells as a power source for its manned spacecraft starting with Gemini but they are prone to malfunction and require complex storage and plumbing for the LOx and LH2.
Storage batteries, as used by the Apollo Lunar Module, are heavy and have a limited life.
RTG's are used as power sources for probes to the outer solar system where there is limited solar energy and they have never been used as the primary power source for a manned spacecraft.
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