Encyclopedia Astronautica
SLS A-388

SLS A-388
Credit: © Mark Wade
American orbital launch vehicle. The A-388 was the version of the Space Launching System family proposed to fill the SLV-4 requirement - boost to orbit of the Dynasoar manned spaceplane. The booster was dubbed 'Phoenix' - perhaps a hope it could be rescued from the ashes of the manned space program having been turned over to NASA....

With a July 1961 program go-ahead, first flight test was predicted for October 1963 and first operational manned launch in July 1964. Instead an alternative with a marginally lower initial cost, the Titan 2 with solid rocket boosters (Titan 3) was selected. Had the A-388 been selected, the USAF would have fielded an equivalent of the Delta 4 or Atlas 5 EELV's forty years before the fact.

The Space Launching System A-388 was seriously considered as an alternative to the Titan III for the USAF SLV-4 space launch requirement in 1961. In this system there was a single liquid stage using oxygen-hydrogen and a single J-2 engine. The first stage was segmented solids, slightly smaller than in the Titan configuration. Compared to the three-stage Titan, the lift-off gross weight was slightly less, but the inherent reliability was slightly greater -- estimated to be about 87%, due to the greater simplicity in the liquid stage. The vehicle was sized to accommodate an 8500 kg Dynasoar payload, but was capable of putting over 9,000 kg into low earth orbit.

LEO Payload: 9,070 kg (19,990 lb) to a 200 km orbit at 28.00 degrees.

Stage Data - SLS A-388

  • Stage 1. 2 x SLS SRB 388. Gross Mass: 88,000 kg (194,000 lb). Empty Mass: 13,000 kg (28,000 lb). Thrust (vac): 2,083.900 kN (468,479 lbf). Isp: 260 sec. Burn time: 90 sec. Isp(sl): 235 sec. Diameter: 2.58 m (8.46 ft). Span: 2.58 m (8.46 ft). Length: 16.40 m (53.80 ft). Propellants: Solid. No Engines: 1. Status: Study 1961. Comments: Booster for SLS A series launch vehicles.
  • Stage 2. 1 x SLS Stage A. Gross Mass: 59,000 kg (130,000 lb). Empty Mass: 6,000 kg (13,200 lb). Thrust (vac): 889.325 kN (199,928 lbf). Isp: 424 sec. Burn time: 250 sec. Diameter: 4.28 m (14.04 ft). Span: 4.28 m (14.04 ft). Length: 15.00 m (49.00 ft). Propellants: Lox/LH2. No Engines: 1. Engine: J-2. Status: Study 1961. Comments: Smallest Lox/LH2 stage planned for SLS series. Empty mass estimated. Sized for rail transport within USA.

AKA: Space Launching System A-388; Phoenix.
Status: Study 1961.
Gross mass: 243,000 kg (535,000 lb).
Payload: 9,070 kg (19,990 lb).
Height: 24.70 m (81.00 ft).
Diameter: 4.28 m (14.04 ft).
Span: 9.45 m (31.00 ft).
Thrust: 3,776.50 kN (848,991 lbf).
Apogee: 200 km (120 mi).

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • SLS In the mid-1950's, US Air Force-funded studies identified the optimum long-term solution for space launch. The studies indicated the desirability of segmented solids for a first stage to achieve low cost, high reliability and flexibility of basic booster size by adding or subtracting segments. Studies further showed that oxygen-hydrogen propellants, with their very high specific impulse, were a preferred choice for upper stages, where mass was more important. This choice also resulted in minimum systems cost. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • USAF American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. United States Air Force, USA. More...

Associated Stages
  • SLS Stage A Lox/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 59,000/6,000 kg. Thrust 889.33 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 424 seconds. Smallest Lox/LH2 stage planned for SLS series. Empty mass estimated. Sized for rail transport within USA. More...
  • SLS SRB 388 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 88,000/13,000 kg. Thrust 2,083.90 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 260 seconds. Booster for SLS A series launch vehicles. More...

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