Ares programme manager Steve Cook has debunked what he calls the "Ares myths" that critics have persistently assumed about the Moon mission launcher since it was unveiled in 2005: that the rocket does not have enough power, that its resonant burning oscillation will damage the Orion crew capsule and that the Ares will not be controllable in flight.

Speaking at NASA's third space exploration conference on 26 February in Denver, Colorado, Cook said that while the performance of the Ares I crew launch vehicle could be improved, Ares had a 2,200kg (4,400lb) performance margin over and above the lunar mission's requirement and 1,360kg performance margin over Orion's maximum mass needs that the oscillation issue was well known and would be solved and that after 4,200h of wind tunnel tests and the availability of heritage thrust vector control technology Ares I would be controllable in flight.

As for potential improvements, Cook spoke of a 609mm (24in) longer first-stage nozzle for an extra 590kg capability to Low Earth Orbit, a reduction in cryogenic tank wall thickness for the upper stage, for "extra several hundred pounds more performance", and for some missions the removal of the first-stage recovery system for a "significant capability increase".

Of a fourth myth - that the vehicle's development is not on schedule - Cook said: "We have hit all our milestones and are on track to hit [the preliminary design review] milestone in August 2008. We won't go into a review unless we're ready." However multiple NASA schedule documents obtined by Flight have shown a slippage of the PDR for Ares since early 2007.

Source: Flight International