What type of launch vehicle will carry the Crew Exploration Vehicle into low-Earth orbit?A Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) consisting of a solid rocket booster and a space shuttle main engine driven upper stage will carry the spacecraft into orbit. The CLV can carry a payload of 25 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO).
Why was “shuttle derived” selected as the primary choice for the Crew Launch Vehicle, especially with the CAIB chairman Admiral Gehman and the NASA Administrator saying that the shuttle is a complex experimental spacecraft that will never be safe?Developing a system derived from the most reliable elements of the space shuttle—the solid rocket booster and the main engines-- is the safest, most reliable, and most affordable means of meeting low-Earth orbit crew requirements. Shuttle derived refers specifically to the shuttle's solid rocket boosters and main engines not the space shuttle. We are retiring the shuttle orbiter, not the solid rocket boosters or the main engines.
Once the space shuttle is retired, we will still need heavy lift capabilities to space. Future lunar missions will require significantly greater payload to LEO than provided by the space shuttle. However, a shuttle derived heavy lift launch vehicle could lift 125 metric tons to LEO.
Also, the new spacecraft will provide its crew with a launch escape capability, something that the space shuttle does not have which, combined with its inline design, makes the new vehicle 10 times safer than the shuttle for ascent, according to NASA engineers.