Encyclopedia Astronautica
Beta III


German SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. In 1969 Dietrich Koelle proposed his BETA III design. This was to deliver 20 tonnes to orbit with a launch mass of 600 tonnes. In 1996 and 1998 he updated the design for use as an ISS resupply vehicle in place of the shuttle, and as a space tourism vehicle for 100 passengers.

The BETA III / STV-100 launch vehicle with a 100 passenger cabin had a launch mass of about 780 tonnes. 685 tonnes propellants were required for ascent, leaving a net mass of 75 tonnes, including 12.5 tonnes propellants for manoeuvring, reserves and landing. The total cabin mass was estimated to be 11.6 tonnes, plus 8.4 tonnes for the passengers and crew. The cargo capability of the unmanned version would be 17 tonnes.

The cabin design featured a 6.5 m diameter pressure vessel with three levels, each one equipped with 34 seats in a circular arrangement, providing an optimum viewing opportunity for each passenger. In the centre was a relatively large cylindrical zero-g exercise volume. Ample space for galleys, toilets, storage boxes and equipment was provided. On top of the passenger cabin was a cockpit with seats for the Commander and the Tourist Guide. Although the mission would be performed completely automatically a chief pilot was felt to be required for psychological reasons. In addition, three attendants would take care of the passengers. The seats would be inclined almost horizontally for the launch and landing phases. The cabin diameter is about 6.5 m.

The BETA STV-100 Mass Summary was as follows:

  • Launch Mass ( GLOW) 780 tonnes
  • Propellant Mass (ascent) 685 tonnes
  • Passenger Cabin (equipped) 11.6 tonnes
  • 100 Passengers + 5 Crew 8.4 tonnes
  • Vehicle Dry Mass 62.2 tonnes, consisting of:
    • Structure 17.0 tonnes
    • Tanks and Insulation 12.6 tonnes
    • TPS (Thermal protecion) 5.8 tonnes
    • Main engine system 16.8 tonnes
    • OMS/RCS 1.6 tonnes
    • LGS (Landing Gear System) 2.4 tonnes
    • Equipment & Margin 6.0 tonnes
  • On-board propellants 12.8 tonnes
  • OMS/RCS propellants 1.5 tonnes
  • Residuals, reserve 2.8 tonnes
  • Landing propellants 8.5 tonnes
  • Vehicle NET MASS 75.0 tonnes
  • Net Mass Fraction (NMF) 10.9 %

The total thrust level at take-off was 10700 kN, providing a launch acceleration of 1.4 g. which Koelle had found to be optimum for SSTO vehicles. 12 to 24 engines would be arranged around plug nozzle with a centre engine to minimize base drag at launch and to perform orbital manoeuvres (injection, retro impulses). The average specific impulse including the plug nozzle effect at ascent was assumed to be 428 sec, with 350 sec at launch and 455 s in vacuum.

During ascent the thrust level was reduced by throttling and/or cutting off selected engines in order to achieve the maximum performance and limit the thrust acceleration to some 3.5 g. Use of an optimum throttling programme indicated a remarkable reduction of velocity losses and the total required velocity.

In fact the design greatly resembled the first stage of Russia's N1 moon rocket.

LEO Payload: 17,000 kg (37,000 lb) to a 90 km orbit at 6.00 degrees. Development Cost $: 2,000.000 million. Launch Price $: 2.000 million in 1969 dollars in 1969 dollars.

AKA: Ballistisches Enistufiges Traeger-Aggregat III.
Status: Study 1987.
Gross mass: 780,000 kg (1,710,000 lb).
Payload: 17,000 kg (37,000 lb).
Thrust: 1,070.00 kN (240,540 lbf).
Apogee: 90 km (55 mi).

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Associated Countries
See also
  • SSTO Category of launch vehicles. Single Stage To Orbit. More...
  • VTOVL The concept of a reusable single-stage-to-orbit Vertical Take-Off Vertical Landing (VTOVL) launch vehicle that would reenter and return to its launch site for turnaround and relaunch was first proposed by Philip Bono in the 1960's. The appealing simplicity of the concept has been offset by the technological risk in developing it. The problem with any single-stage-to-orbit concept is that if the empty weight of the final vehicle has been underestimated it will not be able to deliver any payload to orbit, or even reach orbit. Since weight growth of up to 20% is not unknown in aerospace projects, this is a very real threat which has made both NASA and private investors reluctant to invest the billions of dollars it would take to develop a full-scale flight vehicle. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • MBB German manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm GmBh, Munich, Germany. More...

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