Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: NASA
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.

Fully fueled, it would weigh as much as an ocean-going freighter. It would carry a 900 tonnes to orbit, allowing it to launch a spaceship bound for Mars. This behemoth would have a diameter of 50 m with its height approaching that of the Washington Monument. It would fly as a single-stage launch vehicle. Fully recoverable, it would touch down in the ocean following a return from orbit. Parachutes would slow its descent. Retro-rockets, firing during the last seconds, would assure a gentle landing.

LEO Payload: 450,000 kg (990,000 lb).

Status: Design 1962.
Gross mass: 21,820,000 kg (48,100,000 lb).
Payload: 450,000 kg (990,000 lb).
Height: 122.00 m (400.00 ft).
Diameter: 45.70 m (149.90 ft).
Span: 50.00 m (164.00 ft).

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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
  • Convair American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Convair, USA. More...

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