Encyclopedia Astronautica
Douglas Astro

Credit: NASA
American winged orbital launch vehicle. The Douglas "Astro" was a VTHL TSTO system designed for launching space station crews and cargo by the 1968-70 period. A key requirement was that off-the-shelf technologies must be used, e.g. existing M-1, J-2 and RL-10 engines from the Saturn and Nova expendable launch vehicle programs.

Both stages were manned and employed lifting-body configurations. The (empty/gross) mass fraction was quite high (0.89 for the boooster,0.844 for the orbiter) and the designers attributed this to the thick-wing lifting body configuration which resulted in less weight due to lower stresses and thermal loads during reentry. After separating from the orbiter at an altitude of 82km, the booster would make an unpowered landing 830km from the launch site since it has no jet engines for atmospheric cruise. The flight rate assumptions were quite high: 240 flights per year for a fleet of 12 boosters & 24 orbiters with a turnaround time between missions of less than 18 days. A mobile launcher erector would eliminate the need for large gantrys. The planned service life was 100 flights for the orbiter and 200 flights for the booster. The engines would have been capable of 50 firings between major overhaul (the airframes would last up to 300 flights). Development cost: $1.2 billion (1964 dollars -- $6.45B in FY 1999). Marginal cost per mission: $1.5M (=$41/lb at 1964 economic conditions; $485/kg in 1999).

LEO Payload: 16,851 kg (37,150 lb) to a 555 km orbit at 28.50 degrees. Development Cost $: 1,200.000 million. Launch Price $: 1.500 million in 1964 dollars in 1964 dollars.

Status: Study 1962.
Gross mass: 407,870 kg (899,190 lb).
Payload: 16,851 kg (37,150 lb).
Height: 49.00 m (160.00 ft).
Apogee: 555 km (344 mi).

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Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Douglas Astro American manned spaceplane. Study 1962. The Douglas "Astro" was a VTHL TSTO system designed for launching space station crews and cargo by the 1968-70 period. More...

See also
  • Winged In the beginning, nobody (except Jules Verne) thought anybody would be travelling to space and back in ballistic cannon balls. The only proper way for a space voyager to return to earth was at the controls of a real winged airplane. More...

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

  • Root & Fuller, "ASTRO Concept", Astronautics & Aeronautics, 1964/January/p.42.

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