Encyclopedia Astronautica

Rita C
Rita C Nuclear Launch Vehicle
Credit: © Mark Wade
Nuclear/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 4,399,000/880,000 kg. Thrust 96,507.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 810 seconds. Same engine chamber used to burn liquid oxygen and hydrogen for boost phase, switching to pure nuclear thermal engine for high-performance final acceleration.

Propellant Formulation: Nuclear/Lox/LH2. No Engines: 4.

Status: Study 1963.
Gross mass: 4,399,000 kg (9,698,000 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 880,000 kg (1,940,000 lb).
Height: 50.30 m (165.00 ft).
Diameter: 21.30 m (69.80 ft).
Span: 57.90 m (189.90 ft).
Thrust: 96,507.00 kN (21,695,636 lbf).
Specific impulse: 810 s.
Specific impulse sea level: 500 s.
Burn time: 285 s.

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Associated Countries
Associated Engines
Associated Launch Vehicles
  • RITA C American nuclear-powered orbital launch vehicle. Nuclear single-stage-to-orbit booster. More...

Associated Propellants
  • Nuclear/LH2 Nuclear thermal engines use the heat of a nuclear reactor to heat a propellant. Although early Russian designs used ammonia or alcohol as propellant, the ideal working fluid for space applications is the liquid form of the lightest element, hydrogen. Nuclear engines would have twice the performance of conventional chemical rocket engines. Although successfully ground-tested in both Russia and America, they have never been flown due primarily to environmental and safety concerns. Liquid hydrogen was identified by all the leading rocket visionaries as the theoretically ideal rocket fuel. It had big drawbacks, however - it was highly cryogenic, and it had a very low density, making for large tanks. The United States mastered hydrogen technology for the highly classified Lockheed CL-400 Suntan reconnaissance aircraft in the mid-1950's. The technology was transferred to the Centaur rocket stage program, and by the mid-1960's the United States was flying the Centaur and Saturn upper stages using the fuel. It was adopted for the core of the space shuttle, and Centaur stages still fly today. More...

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