The White House might be waiting for weeks—up until the FY11 budget proposal release in early February—to formally announce it plans for NASA’s future, but details are starting to leak out. Science magazine reports on its ScienceInsider blog this evening that the administration favors scrapping Ares 1 and 5 and instead developing a “simpler” heavy-lift vehicle that could enter service in 2018.
What that heavy-lift vehicle would be isn’t clear. The three versions of the Flexible Path option included in the Augustine committee’s final report had different options for heavy-lift: an “Ares 5 Light”, an EELV-derived heavy-lift vehicle, and a shuttle-derived heavy-lifter. None of them, though, had the heavy-lift vehicle ready to enter service until the early 2020s.
“The decision is not going to make anyone gasp,” a White House source told Science. However, it’s bound to make some—particularly supporters of the current Constellation architecture—cry out.