Industry will have from 1 December until early January to bid for a NASA electric Thrust Vector Control (TVC) technical feasibility contract for the US space agency's Ares I crew launch vehicle (CLV) first-stage.

If adopted, the change from using the Space Shuttle solid rocket booster's (SRB) hydraulic TVC would diminish the level of technology derived from the Shuttle, undermining one of NASA's cost-control strategies. A change would also mean the only shuttle heritage used in the CLV first-stage will be the SRB's metal casings - and even that is being evaluated by NASA for a potential change to a filament wound composite.

NASA's Ares project office manager Steve Cook told Flight: "Because [the electromechanical actuator] has the potential to reduce operations costs in the long run. It is a technology study effort at this point. If we did use it, we would likely do it as a downstream upgrade."

In 1993 a NASA Marshall Space Flight Center study examined the use of electric TVC for the Shuttle, also to reduce operation costs. Another downstream upgrade that has already been approved for the CLV is the extension of the first-stage's nozzle for lunar missions from 2020.

US media reports have suggested that CLV lift-off drift could cause it to collide with its own launch tower. However, NASA denies it has a problem, as all launch vehicles have a drift issue and use their first-stage TVC to avoid ground infrastructure collisions.

Originally published on 5 August, the electric TVC prototype procurement documents had given 29 August as the release date for the request for proposals. This was delayed to 1 October and then industry was notified of an indefinite delay until the 6 November announcement.

Source: Flight International