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NASA drops Ares V from launch services contract

NASA has dropped the Ares V cargo launch vehicle (CaLV) and Altair lunar lander from its Constellation programme's Exploration ground launch services (EGLS) request for proposals citing, the CaLV's distant first launch.

The Ares V ground systems' development was to begin in 2012, but in a revised planning chart presented at the 10 June EGLS pre-proposal conference Ares V and Altair are eliminated out to 2020.

The EGLS contract, which will be awarded in mid-2010, will also provide ground processing services for the Orion crew exploration vehicle as well.

The EGLS pre-proposal conference charts show the first unmanned Ares I crew launch vehicle flight, Ares I-Y, taking place in March 2014; the first manned Orion-Ares lift-off from pad 39B in March 2015; and the first Ares V test launch, Ares V-Y, taking place from pad 39A three years later in June 2019. The EGLS base contract lasts to 2015 and the option periods extend out to and including 2019.

Constellation programme space transport planning office director Ed Mango told Flightglobal: "The scope for the base and option periods will end before Ares V operations. NASA will want to re-compete ground processing as we get closer to Ares V operations."

NASA's conceptual design contracts for Ares V and the Altair lunar lander are on hold pending the outcome of the US human spaceflight plans review. This could report by September. Mango added that the EGLS RFP is to be published in "weeks", the previously given publication date was 24 July.

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