DIASPORA PROJECT UPDATE:
*NOTE: fictional alternate history
As the Apollo program drew to a close in the late 1980s, plans were being laid for a permanent presence off-world. Both an orbital space station and an operational lunar base were in the works, as well as the first manned mission to Mars. A requirement for any of these projects was a heavy-lift capability that didn't exist at the time.
In 1986, NASA issued a request for proposals for a heavy-lift launch vehicle, using off-the-shelf technology where possible, and developing re-usable systems where possible. Thiokol and Martin Marietta updated components that they had developed for the aborted space shuttle program, and Rockwell International weighed in with an uprated Saturn S-II second stage. The first all-up test launch was on April 11, 1988, and the Ares-1B was declared operational on September 4, 1990.
Both Space Station I and Clavius Base largely owe their existence to the Ares-1B's lift capabilities. The Ares HLLV was also instrumental in delivering habitation modules and MAVs (Mars Ascent Vehicles) for the early manned Mars missions.
Presented in the first picture is an exploded view of the Ares-1B launch system. In the second picture is a depiction of the fully assembled stack, with a Saturn V shown for scale.
High-resolution versions, suitable for wallpaper are available on our Facebook page.