Overview: Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle

    Artist concept of Ares I launch

    Artist concept of Ares I. Image Credit: NASA

    NASA is already at work developing hardware and systems for the Ares I rocket that will send future astronauts into orbit. Built on cutting-edge launch technologies, evolved powerful Apollo and space shuttle propulsion elements, and decades of NASA spaceflight experience, Ares I is the essential core of a safe, reliable, cost-effective space transportation system -- one that will carry crewed missions back to the moon, on to Mars and out into the solar system.

    Ares I is an in-line, two-stage rocket configuration topped by the Orion crew vehicle and its launch abort system. In addition to the vehicle's primary mission -- carrying crews of four to six astronauts to Earth orbit -- Ares I may also use its 25-ton payload capacity to deliver resources and supplies to the International Space Station, or to "park" payloads in orbit for retrieval by other spacecraft bound for the moon or other destinations.

    During launch, the first-stage booster powers the vehicle toward low Earth orbit. In mid-flight, the reusable booster separates and the upper stage's J-2X engine ignites, putting the vehicle into a circular orbit.

    Crew transportation to the International Space Station is planned to begin no later than 2014. The first lunar excursion is scheduled for the 2020 timeframe.

    Ares I First Stage

    The Ares I first stage is a single, five-segment reusable solid rocket booster derived from the Space Shuttle Program's reusable solid rocket motor, which burns a specially formulated and shaped solid propellant.

    A newly designed forward adapter will mate the vehicle's first stage to the upper stage, and will be equipped with booster separation motors to disconnect the stages during ascent.

    Ares I Upper Stage / Upper Stage Engine

    A J

    A J-2 engine undergoes static firing. Image Credit: NASA

    The Ares I second, or upper, stage is propelled by a J-2X main engine fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

    The J-2X is an evolved variation of two historic predecessors: the powerful J-2 engine that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets, and the J-2S, a simplified version of the J-2 developed and tested in the early 1970s but never flown.

    More Information:
    > Ares I Crew Vehicle (PDF, 642 KB)
    > Ares I First Stage: Powering the Ares I Rocket for Liftoff (PDF, 393 KB)
    Ares I Upper Stage: Powering the Second Phase of a Rocket's Journey to Space (PDF, 479 KB)
    > J-2X Engine Fact Sheet (PDF, 2.97 MB)
    > Naming NASA's New Rockets
    > View Expanded Views of Ares-I and Ares-V (1.3 Mb PDF)

    Video: Ares: Launching the Future
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