Encyclopedia Astronautica
Hyperion SSTO



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Hyperion
Credit: NASA
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Hyperion SSTO
Hyperion SSTO Launch Vehicle
Credit: © Mark Wade
American manned spacecraft. Study 1966. Yet another of Philip Bono's single-stage-to-orbit designs of the 1960's, using a plug-nozzle engine for ascent and as a re-entry heat shield.

Hyperion would have taken 18,100 kg of payload or 110 passengers to orbit or on 45 minute flights to any point on earth. Hyperion used a sled for launch, which would have seriously hurt its utility. The sled gave a 300 m/s boost to the vehicle before it ascended to orbit. The sled would have 3 km of straight course, followed by 1 km up a mountainside, with a 3 G acceleration.

The aerospace transportation industry grew by leaps and bounds during the 1960s as bigger, faster and ever more capable aircraft and rockets became available. There appeared to be no limits to progress. In April 1963, NASA's Manned Spaceflight Center released a launch forecast for "Nova"-class heavy rockets in the 500-metric ton payload class. The expected need for such vehicles in 1975-90 included a 50-crew Moonbase (1975-), manned Mars flights (1981-), unmanned planetary craft (1979-), large space stations (1980-),and a "global transportation system" (1980) with 242 flights/year by 1990, and a "Nova military strike force" in 1976 (15 flights/year by 1981). Douglas Missile & Space Systems tried to capitalize on this by proposing a series of suborbital rockets capable of transporting 110-260 passengers at 25,000km/h. The "Hyperion" vehicle was truly remarkable since it would have been launched horizontally and landed vertically (HTVL) -- an extremely rare combination. The payload capability was 110 passengers or 18t of cargo. The takeoff mode was similar to contemporary HTHL TSTOs, i.e. a subsonic sled riding on a cushion of air. Hyperion would be traveling at 1100km/h as it left the sled at the end of the 3km launch rail. Unlike other Douglas SSTO concepts, Hyperion was fully reusable so it would have been ideally suited for flights from inland sites since no fuel tanks would be dropped during flight. The booster sled would literally have provided a "flying start" which greatly reduced the SSTO dry mass. Unfortunately, the Hyperion launch system also required a 1.7 km high mountain so Douglas mostly regarded the concept as an experimental vehicle.

Douglas expected that the vehicle would cost $1.5 billion to develop (=$8 billion at 1999 economic conditions), and the cost per seat would have been $3000 -- or $15000-16000 in 1999.

Characteristics

Crew Size: 110.

Gross mass: 470,000 kg (1,030,000 lb).
Height: 31.00 m (101.00 ft).
Thrust: 6,158.00 kN (1,384,373 lbf).

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Associated Countries
See also
Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Hyperion SSTO American sled-launched SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. Yet another of Philip Bono's single-stage-to-orbit designs of the 1960's, using a plug-nozzle engine for ascent and as a re-entry heat shield. Hyperion would have taken 18,100 kg of payload or 110 passengers to orbit or on 45 minute flights to any point on earth. Hyperion used a sled for launch, which would have seriously hurt its utility. The sled gave a 300 m/s boost to the vehicle before it ascended to orbit. The sled would have 3 km of straight course, followed by 1 km up a mountainside, with a 3 G acceleration. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Douglas American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Boeing Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, CA, USA. More...

Bibliography
  • Gatland, Kenneth and Bono, Philip, Frontiers of Space, Macmillan, New York, 1969.

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