A handful of rogue NASA engineers have gone underground and spent their spare time from the Constellation program working on a rocket dubbed "Jupiter"-an alternative that they believe will be "safer, cheaper and easier to build than the two Ares spacecraft that will replace the space shuttle." Jupiter is being developed with the help of a team that includes retired NASA engineers and enthusiasts who are working (mostly) anonymously.
The Jupiter design would require two separate launches to get to the moon (one with payload, one with astronauts), but both rockets would utilize the old shuttle fuel tank at the core. Its backers claim that it could save NASA $19 billion in development costs and another $16 billion in operating costs over two decades. However, NASA formally reviewed the plans last fall and determined that the design was not feasible-a claim that some are disputing. At least one engineer and former NASA contractor has come forward saying that he believes NASA is suppressing information that Jupiter would perform better than Ares. As a result, he is calling for an independent review-something that he is not likely to get when you consider how far along NASA is with the Ares project. [Space via DVICE]