Encyclopedia Astronautica
Design


Category of launch vehicles.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Newton's Orbital Cannon British gun-launched orbital launch vehicle. Isaac Newton discussed the use of a cannon to attain orbit in 1687 in his Principia Mathematica - the very book that defined classical physics and provided the theoretical basis for space travel and rocketry. Newton used the following 'thought experiment' to explain the principle of orbits around the earth (see illustration):

    Imagine a mountain so high that its peak is above the atmosphere of the earth. Imagine on top of that mountain a cannon, that fires horizontally. As more and more charge is used with each shot, the speed of the cannonball will be grater, and the projectile will impact the ground farther and farther from the mountain. Finally, at a certain speed, the cannonball will not hit the ground at all. It will fall toward the circular earth just as fast as the earth curves away from it. In the absence of drag from the atmosphere, it will continue forever in an orbit around the earth. More...

  • Jules Verne Moon Gun French gun-launched orbital launch vehicle. Jules Verne's moon gun, as described in his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, was located in Florida. Although some errors were made, Verne used real engineering analysis to arrive at the design of his cannon and manned moon projectile. As a result, at the time of Apollo 8 and 11 missions it was noted that Verne had made an astonishing number of correct predictions about the actual missions.... More...
  • Tsiolkovsky Russian orbital launch vehicle. Tsiolkovsky was the first to propose the use of liquid hydrogen and oxygen to propel a rocket, and calculated its performance using the crucial rocket equation V = c ln(Mo/ Me). More...
  • Valier-Oberth Moon Gun German gun-launched orbital launch vehicle. In 1926 rocket pioneers Max Valier and Hermann Oberth, members of the VfR (Society for Space Travel), amused themselves by designing a gun that would rectify Verne's technical mistakes and be actually capable of firing a projectile to the moon. More...
  • A1 German test vehicle. First in series of rockets leading to V-2. Exploded at Kummersdorf during a test run. Considered aerodynamically unstable (a stabilising flywheel was mounted forward) and no launch attempts were made. More...
  • A6 German intermediate range cruise missile. The A6 designation was applied to a version of the A5 subscale V-2 using alternate propellants. It also seems to have been applied to a manned, ramjet-powered version of the A9 winged V-2. More...
  • D-1 Russian tactical ballistic missile. Korolev design for a 'long range' rocket prior to orders to copy the V-2. The 1000 kg rocket would have a range of 32 km. Wingspan 1.0 m; 370 kg propellants; minimum range 12..8 km; maximum velocity 854 m/s; maximum altitude 12.5 km. More...
  • D-2 Russian tactical ballistic missile. Korolev design for a 'long range' rocket prior to orders to copy the V-2. Extended-range winged version of the D-1. The 1200 kg rocket would have a range of 76 km. Wingspan 1.5 m; 370 kg propellants; minimum range 20 km; maximum velocity 628 m/s; maximum altitude 10.7 km. More...
  • Keldysh Bomber Russian intercontinental boost-glide missile. Soviet version of the Saenger antipodal bomber intensely studied on Stalin's direct orders in 1946-1947. The final study concluded that, given the fuel consumption of foreseeable rocket engines, the design would only be feasible using ramjet engines and greatly advanced materials. This meant that development could only begin in the late 1950's, when such technologies were available. By that time the design had been superseded by more advanced concepts. More...
  • Boojum Intercontinental supersonic cruise missile. A follow-on to the Snark that was Northrop's competitor with the North American Navaho. Never reached development stage and no details available. Name obviously derived from the punchline of Lewis Carroll's poem: "...for the Snark was a Boojum, you see..." More...
  • EBH LV German orbital launch vehicle. The EBH (Engel - Bödewaldt - Hanischlaunch) vehicle was a 1949 manned design which would had a gross launch mass of 220 tonnes and delivered a payload of 3 tonnes to a 557-kilometre orbit More...
  • Tsien Spaceplane 1949 American winged rocketplane. In 1949 Tsien Hsue-shen, the leading expert in high-speed aerodynamics working in America, applied the knowledge learned from German rocket developments to the design of a practical intercontinental rocket transport. More...
  • BIS 3 Stage The British Interplanetary Society (BIS) reusable booster concept of 1950 was a 3 stage, rocket, similar to Von Braun concepts of the time. The third stage was a winged vehicle which would use the skip-glide re-entry technique conceived by Saenger. More...
  • R-20 Russian orbital launch vehicle. Glushko booster - 2000t, Korolev I evo delo p. 307 More...
  • R-10 Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Glushko booster - 1500t, Korolev I evo delo p. 307 More...
  • Astroplane American winged orbital launch vehicle. Martin concept of 1961 for a horizontal takeoff / horizontal landing, single-stage-to-orbit vehicle that would be powered by nuclear magnetohydrodynamic engines. More...
  • 8K94 Ukrainian intermediate range ballistic missile. Unusual designation for the upper stages of another Yangel project - possibly reflecting design originally was stand-alone IRBM? More...
  • Aldebaran American nuclear-powered orbital launch vehicle. Immense nuclear pulse launch vehicle proposed by Dandridge Cole. More...
  • Nexus American SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. Early 1960's recoverable launch vehicle proposed by Krafft Ehricke at General Dynamics. Perhaps the largest conventionally-powered launch vehicle ever conceived, it was designed to deliver 900 tonnes to low earth orbit. More...
  • Sea Dragon American sea-launched heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Sea Dragon was an immense, sea-launched, two-stage launch vehicle designed by Robert Truax for Aerojet in 1962. It was to be capable of putting 1.2 million pounds (550 tonnes) into low Earth orbit. The concept was to achieve minimum launch costs through lower development and production costs. This meant accepting a larger booster with a lower performance propulsion system and higher stage dead weight then traditional NASA and USAF designs. More...
  • X-15/Blue Scout American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. In March 1962, NASA proposed an orbital launch vehicle using the B-52/X-15 combination. A Blue Scout booster would be fitted to an extendable launch rail on the belly of the X-15. The X-15 would be air-launched from the B-52, and then itself air-launch the Blue Scout well above the earth's atmosphere. More...
  • NAA RTTOCV NASA awarded a "Reusable Ten Ton Orbital Carrier Vehicle" contract worth $342,000 to North American Aviation. The final concept from 1963 was quite similar to Lockheed's System III design. The launch capability was 11,340 kg (25,000 lb) and the standard payload would have consisted of a small lenticular 12-man orbital transfer vehicle spaceplane for space station logistics and crew transfer. More...
  • RAE TSTO British winged orbital launch vehicle. The Royal Aircraft Establishment Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) Concept of the 1960's consisted of a hypersonic air-breathing first stage and rocket powered second stage. More...
  • RAE Orbital Fighter British winged orbital launch vehicle. The Royal Aircraft Establishment Orbital Fighter proposal of the 1960's envisioned a two stage vehicle. A ramjet powered first stage would release a second stage orbiter similar to, but smaller than the U.S. X-20 Dyna-Soar. The spaceplane would utilise a gliding re-entry to return to earth. More...
  • McDonnell-Douglas ILRV American winged orbital launch vehicle. The McDonnell-Douglas ILRV design featured fold-out wings for improved low-speed lift-to-drag ratio during final descent and landing. All of the vehicle's propellants were moved outside the orbiter into two large hydrogen tanks and two smaller oxygen tanks. The original concept was sized for an 11,340kg, 9.44m x 4.57m payload. More...
  • UR-900 Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. In 1962 Vladimir Chelomei proposed a family of modular launch vehicles. In January 1969, Chelomei was proposing the UR-900 for the Mars expedition. A garbled description of this launch vehicle appears in Chertok's memoirs. This would seem to be a version of the UR-700 moon rocket using 15 RD-270 modules in the first and second stages in place as opposed to the nine modules of the UR-700. The third and fourth stages were derived from the UR-500. The booster could deliver 240 tonnes to low earth orbit. More...
  • UR-700M Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. In 1969 the Soviet Union began project Aelita, studying the best method to beat the Americans in landing a man on Mars. Chelomei's team reached the conclusion that a Mars expedition would best be launched by an immense vehicle would allow their MK-700 Mars spacecraft to be orbited in two launches. The proposed UR-700M launch vehicle had a gross lift-off mass of 16,000 metric tons and could deliver 750 metric tons to orbit. By 1972 the Nixon administration had cancelled NASA's plans for manned Mars missions. Perhaps not coincidentally, a Soviet expert commission the same year concluded that the Mars project - and the UR-700M booster - were beyond the technical and economical capabilities of the Soviet Union and should be shelved indefinitely. More...
  • Gommersall American SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. Edward Gomersall of NASA's Ames Research Center produced a conservative design for an SSTO in 1970. His vehicle was based on realistic structural technology and used a derivative of the J-2S engine. More...
  • ATV American SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. George Detko of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center produced designs for SSTO vehicles as early as 1960. The expendable vehicle had a gross listoff mass of only 22 tonnes, and could deliver a two-person crew to orbit. More...
  • SSOAR American SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. P Seigler founded a company in 1976 to promote his design for a VTOVL SSTO vehicle using a lox/hydrogen aerospike engine. More...
  • Boeing SPS SSTO American SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. In 1977 Boeing produced a vehicle design for a 227 tonne payload vertical takeoff launch vehicle to be used to launch components for the huge Satellite Solar Power platforms that NASA was promoting at the time. The booster would launch from the edge of a water-filled man-made lagoon and recover in the lagoon and used a water-cooled heat shield for reentry. More...
  • Kvant Russian orbital launch vehicle. The Kvant was the Soviet third generation light launch vehicle planned to replace the Kosmos and Tsyklon series. Unlike the vehicles it was to replace, the booster used non-toxic 'environmentally friendly' liquid oxygen/kerosene propellants. Although such a light launch vehicle was on Space Forces wish lists since 1972, full scale development was again deferred due to the crash effort on Soviet 'star wars' in the second half of the 1980's. RKK Energia marketed the vehicle design from 1994 to 2001, but could find no source for development funds. More...
  • Yakovlev MVKS Russian SSTO winged orbital launch vehicle. In reaction to US X-30 project, government decrees of 27 January and 19 July 1986 ordered development of a Soviet equivalent. The Ministry of Defence issued technical specifications on 1 September for an MVKS, a single-stage reusable aerospaceplane system. The MKVS was to provide effective and economic delivery to near-earth orbit; develop the technology for effective transatmospheric flight; provide super high-speed intercontinental transport, and fulfil military objectives in and from space. It is known that the Tupolev, Yakovlev, and Energia design bureaux submitted designs. No details of the Yakovlev design have become available to date. More...
  • VKS Russian SSTO winged orbital launch vehicle. RKK Energia's proposed solution to the Soviet government's MVKS requirement for a single-stage-to-orbit reusable aerospaceplane system was this 700-metric-ton, turboramjet/rocket mised propulsion design. Work began in 1986 but abandoned when the Soviet Union collapsed. More...
  • Chang Cheng 1 Chinese winged orbital launch vehicle. The Chang Cheng 1 (Great Wall 1) vertical takeoff / horizontal landing two-stage space shuttle was a compromise design created jointly by Shanghai Astronautics Bureau 805 (now the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology) and Institute 604 of the Air Ministry in 1988. An expendable booster, consisting of three of Shanghai's planned liquid oxygen/kerosene modular boosters, would boost the winged second stage shuttle to a high altitude. The engines of the winged shuttle stage would take it to orbit. This approach would allow a first flight to be made in 2008. More...
  • H-2 HTOHL The H-2 horizontal takeoff / horizontal landing two-stage reusable space shuttle was proposed by Institute 601 of the Air Ministry in 1988. The first stage would used air breathing engines to accelerate the rocket-powered second stage to release velocity. This ambitious design would leapfrog China ahead of other spacefaring nations, but would be available no earlier than 2015. It was decided the concept was beyond Chinese technical capability, and it was not pursued further. More...
  • V-2 VTOHL Chinese winged orbital launch vehicle. The V-2 vertical takeoff / horizontal landing two-stage reusable space shuttle was proposed by Beijing Department 11 of the Air Ministry in 1988. The first stage would use liquid oxygen/kerosene engines, while the second would use liquid oxygen/hydrogen engines. Both stages would be winged, and first flight would be no earlier than 2015. More...
  • Mikoyan 301 Russian intermediate range cruise missile. The 301 was designed as a military bomber, with a Mach 4 / 4,250 km/hr cruise capability at 25,000 to 27,000 m altitude. It was equipped with two turboramjets, had a gross takeoff mass of 80 tonnes, of which half was fuel. It may be related to the first stage of the MIGAKS two-stage vehicle. More...
  • Spacebus British winged orbital launch vehicle. The Bristol Spaceplanes Spacebus was a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) Manned Spaceplane, with an airbreathing supersonic / hypersonic, delta winged first stage and a second stage powered by a liquid fuelled rocket engine. It was proposed by David Ashford of Bristol Spaceplanes Ltd. in the 1980`s / 1990's. The 6-crew Concorde-sized Spacecab would serve as a prototype for the larger 50-person Spacebus. More...
  • Excalibur American sea-launched orbital launch vehicle. Excalibur was a subscale version of Sea Dragon proposed by Truax Engineering in the 1990's. It featured the same attributes as Sea Dragon: low cost design (pressure fed engines), Lox/Kerosene first stage (combustion chamber pressure 24 atmospheres) and Lox/LH2 second stage (chamber pressure 5 atmospheres). Guidance would be by a combined Inertial/GPS system. An even smaller Excalibur S vehicle would prove the concept and place 500 kg in orbit. More...
  • Project 921 In 1992 Xiandong Bao of the Shanghai Astronautics Bureau revealed plans for a modular family of modern rockets to support future Chinese manned space activities. The entire family would be based on a Lox/Kerosene booster stage of 306 tonnes mass, and a Lox/LH2 upper stage of 57 tonnes mass. More...
  • LII Spaceplane Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. LII (the Gromov Experimental Flight Institute at Zhukoskiy) designed several alternate spaceplane concepts for air-launch from the An-225 transport. These were similar to the various MAKS concepts. More...
  • Riksha Russian orbital launch vehicle. New design launch vehicle based on SLBM technology. More...
  • Japanese Space Plane Japanese winged orbital launch vehicle. NAL / Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. design for a single stage to orbit spaceplane. Crew of ten, empty mass 110 tonnes. LACE / Scramjet engines, 29 m wingspan. More...
  • Kankoh Maru Japanese SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. Kawasaki design for single stage to orbit reusable booster. Would carry 50 passengers to orbiting hotels or fast intercontinental flights. More...
  • Jules Verne Launcher American gun-launched orbital launch vehicle. Following the failure of the US government to fund further development of the SHARP light gas gun, John Hunter founded the Jules Verne Launcher Company in 1996 in an attempt to fund commercial development of the concept. More...
  • Ausroc Australian low cost orbital launch vehicle. Proposed southern hemisphere launcher. More...
  • Themis French winged orbital launch vehicle. Themis was a planned ESA booster stage demonstrator, to validate integrated propellant tank technology necessary for a reusable Ariane 5 successor. The demonstrator engine would be derived from the Vulcain of the Ariane 5. Estimated cost was up to 2.5 billion dollars. THEMIS would carry 33 tonnes of propellant, enough to reach Mach 11. Expendable boosters might permit orbital flight. More...
  • EXTV French winged orbital launch vehicle. This was to be a reusable winged rocket-powered atmospheric reentry demonstrator capable of reaching speeds of Mach 4 to 10 in the atmosphere. The aim was for ESA to build up experience in reuse operations and high-speed atmospheric flight in the 2003-2007 period. The demonstrator would weigh two tonnes and have a range of 1500 kilometers. It would be able to land on a conventional runway. Dassault and Aerospatiale Matra were to merge their VEHRA and ARES projects to produce a single design. Ares estimated cost was 550 million dollars. More...
  • FLTP European winged orbital launch vehicle. Europe's Future Launcher Technology Program (FLTP) was an ESA study program that ran from 1999-2002, with the objective of identifying and developing technologies necessary for the successor to the Ariane 5. The planned configuration was a two-stage fully recoverable winged launch vehicle. The winged booster would deliver the orbiter to a given altitude, then booster fly back to its launch base at Kourou. The second stage orbiter continued to orbit, delivered its payload and then returned to Kourou. The program faded out following collapse of the commercial launch market, development problems with the Ariane 5, and cancellation of NASA reusable launch vehicle projects. More...
  • Sodruzhestvo Joint Kazakh-Russian-Ukrainian project announced in 2000 to produce an 'ecologically safe' replacement of the Proton booster that would use Energia launch facilities at Baikonur. No details available, and no more heard about it. More...
  • Chinese RLV Chinese orbital launch vehicle. By the late 2000 a leading candidate for China's first reusable launch vehicle was a CALT-designed two-stage fully reusable rocket similar to the Kistler K-1. More...
  • Astroliner American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. The Kelly Space & Technology Astroliner Space Launch System was a two-stage-to-orbit, towed space launch concept. Towing an aerodynamic vehicle to an altitude of 6,000 m yielded higher system performance due to vacuum engine performance, reduced drag and gravity losses, and aerodynamic lift during flight. More...
  • Pathfinder American air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. Pioneer Rocketplane planned in the late 1990's to produce the Pathfinder aerial-refueled spaceplane. The two-seat fighter-bomber-sized aircraft was to be powered by two turbofan engines and one kerosene/oxygen-burning RD-120 rocket engine. After takeoff from a conventional airfield, it would rendezvous with a tanker, top off its liquid oxygen tanks, and then rocket to Mach 15 and 110 km altitude. There it would release an upper rocket stage that would boost a 2100 kg payload to orbit. Pathfinder itself would return to the airfield for refueling and reuse. More...
  • Mayak Ukrainian orbital launch vehicle. New family of modular medium-sized launch vehicles proposed by the Ukraine in 2005. No known development or production funding was forthcoming. More...
  • Neptune American sea-launched orbital launch vehicle. Sea-launched stage-and-a-half liquid oxygen / liquid natural gas orbital launch vehicle for passengers or payloads of up to 4.5 tonnes. More...
  • Sea Star American sea-launched orbital launch vehicle. Sea-launched microsatellite orbital launch vehicle for payloads up to 13 kilograms and a testbed for the planned larger Neptune orbital launch vehicle. More...
  • Skybolt Sounding Rocket British sounding rocket. Reusable sounding rocket design proposed by Starchaser Industries, Cheshire, England. As of 2006 the business case for completing development was being reviewed. More...

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