A Process of Assessment

There have been recent reports containing a leaked preliminary internal Air Force assessment document regarding potential abort scenarios for the Ares I rocket and the effect on an Orion crew exploration vehicle.  The assessment, as preliminary, addressed a certain class of abort scenarios.  This class of aborts involves destruction of the first stage because of either a case over-pressure or because of a range safety initiated destruct command.  The majority of aborts do not fall into this category because of the abort criteria and flight rules the program is implementing.  The analysis is not an official Air Force position, but a starting point for working specific issues associated with the complexities of aborts. 

An ongoing exchange of information and analysis is part of the formal process for the 45th Space Wing to evaluate a new vehicle’s request to use the Eastern Range and establish an operations agreement. NASA and the Air Force work together through routine technical interchange meetings to share data and analysis on launch vehicles and payloads. This is typical of how the two organizations have worked together in the past to evaluate Apollo, space shuttle, and nuclear payload missions such as New Horizons as they were in development. A joint team, comprised of experts from both NASA and the Air Force, meets routinely to collaborate on issues related to range safety, and works to provide answers to all outstanding questions and concerns.

The program will continue to work closely with the 45th Space Wing to mature the analyses as the development of the vehicle continues, with the top priority being the ability to protect the crew and public. ‪Ares/Orion were conceived and are being designed as the safest launch vehicles in history. The findings in this preliminary Air Force analysis have provided insight into the abort environment, and each issue and concern will be answered as NASA shares more in-depth studies and analysis with the Air Force and continues to refine its models and data. Constellation is a developing program and NASA will continue to work with the Air Force as the two agencies collaborate to assure both crew and public safety.‪