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The problems with Ares-1 are well known. They were enough to close down the program.

Why was it based on the SRB? At first glance, the SRB was never launched to orbit, was never launched manned, and needed to be modified to prevent vibrations.

Why didn't NASA just use a modified Titan or Atlas. They're fairly successful, Atlas is 49 out of 50, and could probably be tweaked for more reliability. It's also made by Old Space, so it's great for congress.

What pushed NASA to try making a brand new design?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand your "at first glance" objections; Ares I wouldn't have reached orbit on the SRB-derived first stage alone, either, and the SRB was certainly critical to many manned missions. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Nov 9 '14 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove SRB->Ares 1 seems to require more development than EELV->Ares 1 $\endgroup$ – space Nov 10 '14 at 1:51
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The design wasn't brand new, it was an extension of old technology which was extensively used and understood. It was nothing groundbreaking, just an up-scaled shuttle SRB.

My understanding of the motivation behind Ares was that there were people within NASA who felt that they should still be in the launch game, and Ares was their last gasp. They chose the SRB system because it was something they could design and contract out at a relatively low cost, and with the level of expertise they still had. The combination of inexpensive private launch companies like SpaceX, cost overruns, and political changes killed the program before they could make it successful.

Ares had problems for sure, but every new rocket system has failures. They would have made it work eventually, it was a matter of investment. NASA takes its direction from the US government, who told them to give up building their own launcher and use one of the many commercially available ones and to spend their time on more ground-breaking technologies and exploration missions.

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    $\begingroup$ How does SLS count as "ground-breaking technologies"? In fact, isn't SLS just the same as what you said about Ares: NASA designing and contracting the construction of their own launcher. $\endgroup$ – ForgeMonkey Nov 11 '14 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ SpaceX should be removed from this answer, actually. Their existence had very little to do with Ares I's cancellation. Otherwise, source needed. $\endgroup$ – ReactingToAngularVues Dec 21 '17 at 22:46

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