Earth Departure Stage

This article is about the SDLV second stage. For the stage used on the Saturn V to leave LEO, see S-IVB. For the "EDS" on Saturn, see Emergency Detection System.
Earth Departure Stage
Country of origin United States
Used on Ares V
SLS Block II
Associated stages
Comparable S-IVB
Launch history
Status Cancelled (Ares V)
Cancelled (SLS)

Ares V EDS
Engines 1 J-2X
Thrust 1,310 kilonewtons (290,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 448 seconds (vacuum)
Fuel LH2/LOX
Length 24 metres (79 ft)
Engines 3 J-2X
Thrust 3,930 kilonewtons (880,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 448 seconds (vacuum)
Fuel LH2/LOX

The Earth Departure Stage (EDS) is the name given to the second stages of two Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicles, the Ares V and the Block II Space Launch System. The EDS is intended to boost the rocket's payload into a parking orbit around the Earth and from there send the payload out of low Earth orbit to its destination in a manner similar to that of the S-IVB rocket stage used on the Saturn V rockets that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon between 1968 and 1972.

Ares V


The EDS used on the Ares V would have been propelled by a single J-2X main engine fuelled with liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen (LH2), and was to have been designed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of Project Constellation. Originally, the stage would have been based on the Space Shuttle's External Tank, and would have used two J-2X engines, while the Ares V core booster would have used five Space Shuttle Main Engines and two 5-segment Solid Rocket Boosters during the first eight minutes of flight. When the Ares V was then redesigned around the use of five (later six[1]) RS-68B rocket engines currently used on the Delta IV EELV family, the EDS was then redesigned using only a single J-2X engine and a common bulkhead, thus in its final design, the EDS resembled an oversized S-IVB, but with the capability of on-site storage (using new propellant storage techniques along with a "loiter skirt" containing solar panels for electricity) for up to 4 days, something impossible with the old S-IVB.


Launched on the Ares V rocket, the EDS with its Altair payload would not have become active until the six RS-68 engines cutoff and the Ares V core was jettisoned to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. Upon separation using the on-board staging and ullage motors, the single J-2X engine would then have fired at full thrust to place itself and the Altair into a Low-Earth orbit until it was retrieved, via a separate launch on an Ares I, by the Orion MPCV and its four-person astronaut crew.

Once the Orion was docked with the Altair and its systems were checked out, the crew was to jettison the "loiter skirt" and then fire the J-2X engine for a second time, this time at 80% rated thrust, for Trans Lunar Injection (TLI). Unlike the S-IVB, which propelled the Apollo Spacecraft and its three-man crew in a forward-facing motion, the EDS would have fired its onboard rocket with the crew facing the EDS. This "eyeballs out" type of flying would be similar to the flight profile of the proposed, but never flown Manned Venus Flyby, from the cancelled Apollo Applications Program of the late 1960s.

When TLI was completed and the EDS was shut down for the last time, it would then have been jettisoned to fly into a heliocentric orbit, or in a manner similar to that employed by NASA from Apollo 13 to Apollo 17, it may have been deliberately crashed into the lunar surface to help scientists calibrate sensitive seismometers placed on the lunar surface by either astronauts on lunar sortie flights or by unmanned robotic probes.[2]

Space Launch System

When the Ares program was cancelled in favor of the Space Launch System, the EDS was considered as a second stage for the Block 1B SLS.[3] This version of the stage would have been about 80 feet (24 m) long and equipped with one or two J-2X engines.[4] Technological development of the J-2X was expected to take considerably more time, so the EDS was dropped in favor of the Exploration Upper Stage, which will use the much lower-thrust but already-developed RL10. According to NASA, the J-2X will be overpowered for the lunar and asteroid missions of the Block I and IB SLS; its development has been put on hold (though not abandoned) until stages capable of transferring heavy payloads to Mars are required (currently expected in the 2030s, to be served by the Block II).[5]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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