A couple more articles on the ATK/Astrium rocket: /– Astrium ATK Team Up on CCDev 2 Bid – SpaceNews.com /– Scrapped NASA Rocket See New Life In Private Spaceflight – Space.com
Some misc. comments on this proposal: – Just because the 4 segment SRBs were used with the Shuttle, it does not follow that the 5 segment versions will automatically satisfy NASA’s requirements for crew flights. NASA, if it is consistent with requirements on all competitors, should require additional testing both on the ground and in multiple flights.
– Similarly, just because the Ariane 5 was originally intended for the proposed manned Hermes vehicle, it does not follow that an Ariane 5 core atop the 5 segment SRB will satisfy NASA. As noted in various comments here, in addition to the new booster staging configuration the Ariane will need engines set up for starting in flight in vacuum.
– The Atlas V booster may have flown 40-50 times by the 2015-2016 time period when it would carry a vehicle with a NASA crew to orbit. The Falcon 9 may have flown two or three dozen times. The Dragon will have flown many times as well in cargo mode. ATK/Astrium say the Liberty will have flown twice.
– They say the Liberty can carry any of the planned crew vehicles. However, will the launch escape systems for those vehicles be compatible with the Liberty? The ability of an exploding SRB to hurl chunks of fuel and metal for large distances may require more powerful launch escape systems.
– The cost per flight of $180M seems extremely optimistic. How is that calculated? Will ESA subsidize the Ariane? Will the use of Ares infrastructure be paid for? For example, will it include payments to NASA for use of the mobile launch platform?
I’m sure others can come up with many more comments and questions about this proposal. It really only looks viable to me because of the way the hardware and the two companies are so deeply intertwined into the technical and political infrastructures of their respective government space organizations.
Update: Just thought of a better name for this thing: Ares Un. Or maybe Bâton.
This really is the return of Constellation in full. ATK is going to push hard on the idea that this vehicle will jive with a HLV that uses the 5-segment boosters. As always with Constellation, though, these SRB designs lead to an expensive dead end, not to a route to low cost access to space.
A couple of substantive articles: /– The Liberty rocket and the ‘genetics’ of human spaceflight – Spaceman/BBC /– Liberty rocket emerges from shadow of defunct Ares 1 – Spaceflight Now
Another issue is their claim that Ares Un will be cheaper than the Atlas V. I expect they are comparing to the current price paid by the Pentagon. But surely ULA will have lowered the price in the CCDev proposals (I assume it’s partnering in more than one) since it will provide for a higher flight rate, especially if they assume it will lead to Bigelow launches as well.
I expect that SpaceX will propose the lowest cost option of all but there will have to be at least two and maybe three systems by the end as there was with COTS. So there will be a battle between ULA and ATK.