NASA has unequivocally stated that its Ares I launch vehicle will have sufficient thrust to put the Orion crew exploration vehicle into orbit, countering rumours that the launch vehicle - derived from the Space Shuttle's solid rocket booster (SRB) - would not have the required power.

In a statement following completion of its first system requirements review of the Constellation exploration systems programme, NASA says the Ares I "provides a 15% margin of performance in addition to the energy needed to put the fully crewed and supplied Orion into orbit for a lunar mission".

NASA says the performance margin is based on an Orion take-off weight for lunar missions of more than 27,670kg (61,000lb). Previously NASA had said that the Ares I, with a single five-segment SRB as its first stage and liquid-oxygen/liquid-hydrogen J-2X upper stage, would be able to "lift more than 55,000lb" to low Earth orbit.

The Constellation systems requirements review, completed earlier this month, covered the Ares V heavylift launch vehicle as well as the Orion and its Ares I booster.

Project-level systems reviews are planned in February for the crew exploration vehicle and ground operations, and in March for mission operations and space suits. A lunar architecture systems review is expected early in 2009.

Source: Flight International