NASA Names Rockets for Moon and Mars Missions
New Idea: Concept illustration of Crew Exploration Vehicle attached to a shuttle solid rocket booster. Image
Credit: Alliant Techsystems Inc.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA’s next rockets to reach towards the Moon and Mars finally have a name: Ares.

NASA officially unveiled the monikers Ares 1 and Ares 5 for the rockets that will boost future astronauts and heavy cargo into space Friday, one day before the Discovery shuttle is set to launch into orbit.

“There were hundreds of names,” Scott Horowitz, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration, said during the announcement here at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) spaceport, adding that many contenders were rejected. “All the constellations in the sky, all the Greek and Roman gods, all their children, cousins, it went on and on and on.”

But after an in-house study, NASA officially settled on Ares based on the name’s Mars-related connotations, for the two rockets of its Project Constellation spacecraft. The first test flight an Ares booster could by 2009, with a piloted test to follow by 2014, NASA said.

The Ares 1, consisting of an upper stage atop a five-segmented solid rocket booster that was originally developed for the shuttle program, will serve as NASA’s Crew Launch Vehicle. It will launch the four-to-six astronaut (CEV) Crew Exploration Vehicle, a 25-ton capsule-based spacecraft designed to ferry astronauts to the ISS and Moon.

Lockheed Martin and ajoint team from Northrop Grumman and Boeing are competing to build the CEV for NASA, with an initial decision expected by September.

The Ares 5, borrowing the number of NASA’s historic Saturn 5 Moon rocket, will serve as the Cargo Launch Vehicle, and is capable of boosting a 45-ton lunar lander and a rocket stage to ferry the lander and CEV to the Moon.

Ares 5 will launch using two five-segment solid rocket boosters and a cluster of J-2X engines – one of which is used in the Ares 1 upper stage – that will be derived from the original J-2 engine used in NASA’s Apollo Moon missions.

Jeff Hanley, NASA’s Project Constellation program manager, said the Ares vehicles are looking to launch from one of the two launch sites at KSC’s Pad 39 complex, though that target is very preliminary.

NASA’s space shuttle Discovery is currently poised atop Pad 39B for its July 1 launch.

William Gerstenmaier, NASA associated administrator for space operations, said the Constellation program will likely borrow one of the shuttle program’s massive crawler carriers to move Ares rockets to and from their launch pad.

The carriers were originally developed for the Apollo program to transport Saturn 5 rockets, and were later modified to carry the space shuttle launch stack.