London, August 12 : NASA will incorporate a system of springs into its future Ares I rocket to prevent potentially deadly vibrations from shaking the astronauts it carries.
Ares I is designed to carry NASA's Orion crew capsule to orbit. It will replace the space shuttles, which are set to retire in 2010.
But, concerns about the rocket's safety were raised in the media in January, and again in April in a report by the US Government Accountability Office.
They centered on the fact that fuel could burn unevenly inside the Ares I rocket, causing vibrations to build up until they risked destroying the vehicle and killing the crew.
Now, according to a report in New Scientist, NASA officials have said that the agency has settled on a solution to the problem, using vibrating masses on springs - called tuned mass dampers - to cancel out the troublesome rocket vibrations.
"They're basically big springs at the base of the rocket," said NASA's Jeff Hanley in a teleconference with reporters.
The spring system will have sensors to monitor the rocket's vibrations and adjust the behaviour of the springs to counteract them.
"That looks to be very effective," said Hanley.
According to Hanley, the extra weight that this system adds is not enough to threaten the rocket's performance.
"The Ares team is doing well enough on their margins for performance that I'm comfortable that they'll be able to absorb the mass impact that these things imply, with no problem," he said.