Encyclopedia Astronautica
Martin Astrorocket

American winged orbital launch vehicle. Early two-stage-to-orbit shuttle study, using storable propellants, Dynasoar-configuration delta wing orbiter and booster.

Both NASA and the military investigated various reusable TSTO launch vehicle concepts during the early 1960s. In November 1962, the heads of the military and civilian future space transportation efforts signed an agreement to coordinate their hypersonic research vehivle programs. The U.S. Air Force initially was very interested in airbreathing HTHL SSTO aerospaceplanes -- General Dynamics and North American received $1.5-million contracts for preliminary USAF concept studies in June 1963 and the Department of Defense had spent some $46 million on advanced airbreathing vehicle research by FY 1963 -- but quickly concluded that scramjets and other propulsion systems were not yet sufficiently lightweight and efficient for single-stage vehicles.

Airbreathing propulsion and rocket propulsion on HTHL TSTO boosters, on the other hand, would be bigger since they require large wings and huge hydrogen fuel tanks and consequently have a higher dry mass which translates to higher cost. For these reasons, NASA preferred all-rocket TSTO boosters for its "Space Transporter" class of vehicle, since the required engines already had been developed for the Saturn program. The Space Transporter studies were based on the following specifications: (1) 10 passengers + crew of 2 with 3,000kg of cargo to LEO, (2) reduced payload into polar orbit, (3) maximum acceleration of three G, (4) 95% mission reliability and 99.9% probability of passenger survival, and (5) launch rate options of four, eight and sixteen per month over an operational period of 10 years.

In general, the 1960s RLV studies were focused on mission/technology requirements rather than detailed vehicle design. NASA's main priorities for the 1970s were large space stations and manned lunar & planetary missions; the reusable "space transporters" and post-Saturn heavy-lift rockets were simply regarded as necessary adjuncts to reduce the transportation cost. NASA initially regarded horizontally launched TSTOs as safer for passenger transport than vertically launched systems, since the launch G-loads are reduced and the abort characteristics are better than for VLs. However, the US Air Force had more flexibility with respect to G limits and was willing to consider both vertically and horizontally launched Aerospaceplanes.

Martin's "Astrorocket" would have been launched vertically because the designers felt the VL mode frees design from gross liftoff weight constraints (Martin regarded about 450t as the upper limit for a HTHL TSTO). The vertical takeoff mode would provide additional mission flexibility since no rocket powered horizontal launch sled would be required. The Astrorocket would have used storable propellants on both stages so consequently the liftoff weight was high: 1134t. The payload capability to a 555km orbit was only 2.27t and the crew of three astronauts could stay in orbit for up to two weeks. Both stages carry turbojets for powered landing and self-ferry between launch sites. The liftoff thrust would be 13,350KN and stage separation would occur at an altitude of 64km while the vehicle is travelling at 9600km/h.

in: 1985 dollars. Flyaway Unit Cost $: 36.000 million.

Stage Data - Martin Astrorocket

  • Stage 1. 1 x Astrorocket-1. Gross Mass: 981,859 kg (2,164,628 lb). Empty Mass: 132,000 kg (291,000 lb). Thrust (vac): 14,700.000 kN (3,304,600 lbf). Isp: 293 sec. Burn time: 164 sec. Isp(sl): 258 sec. Diameter: 7.00 m (22.90 ft). Span: 40.00 m (131.00 ft). Length: 65.00 m (213.00 ft). Propellants: N2O4/Aerozine-50. No Engines: 9. Status: Study 1962. Comments: Delta wing configuration. LR87-derivative engines.
  • Stage 2. 1 x Astrorocket-2. Gross Mass: 151,927 kg (334,941 lb). Empty Mass: 23,500 kg (51,800 lb). Thrust (vac): 2,150.000 kN (483,330 lbf). Isp: 345 sec. Burn time: 181 sec. Isp(sl): 230 sec. Diameter: 3.00 m (9.80 ft). Span: 20.00 m (65.00 ft). Length: 30.00 m (98.00 ft). Propellants: N2O4/Aerozine-50. No Engines: 1. Status: Study 1962. Comments: X-20 Dynasoar configuration. LR87-derivative engines.

Status: Study 1962.
Gross mass: 1,133,786 kg (2,499,570 lb).
Height: 78.00 m (255.00 ft).
Diameter: 7.00 m (22.90 ft).
Thrust: 12,952.80 kN (2,911,905 lbf).

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Martin Astrorocket American manned spaceplane. Study 1962. Early two-stage-to-orbit shuttle study, using storable propellants, Dynasoar-configuration delta wing orbiter. More...

Associated Engines
  • LR87+ Aerojet N2O4/Aerozine-50 rocket engine. 1634.4 kN. Study 1965. Nominal improved LR87 in booster studies. Isp=293s. Used on Martin Astrorocket launch vehicle. 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
  • Martin American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Martin Marietta Astronautics Group (1956), Denver, CO, USA. More...

  • Gatland, Kenneth and Bono, Philip, Frontiers of Space, Macmillan, New York, 1969.
  • Heppenheimer, T A, The Space Shuttle Decision, NASA History Office, NASA SP-4221, 1999.
  • "Space Transporter Study", Spaceflight, 1965/p.124.

Associated Stages
  • Astrorocket-1 N2O4/Aerozine-50 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 981,859/132,000 kg. Thrust 14,700.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 293 seconds. Delta wing configuration. LR87-derivative engines. More...
  • Astrorocket-2 N2O4/Aerozine-50 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 151,927/23,500 kg. Thrust 2,150.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 345 seconds. X-20 Dynasoar configuration. LR87-derivative engines. More...

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