Encyclopedia Astronautica
Saturn S-N C-3BN


Nuclear/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 32,470/7,708 kg. Thrust 266.80 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 800 seconds. Nuclear upper stage considered in lieu of S-IVB in final Saturn C-3B study in November 1961.

Status: Study 1961.
Gross mass: 32,470 kg (71,580 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 7,708 kg (16,993 lb).
Height: 16.56 m (54.33 ft).
Diameter: 10.06 m (33.00 ft).
Span: 10.06 m (33.00 ft).
Thrust: 266.80 kN (59,979 lbf).
Specific impulse: 800 s.
Burn time: 720 s.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Engines
  • Nerva DoE nuclear/lh2 rocket engine. 266 kN. Study 1968. Early version of Nerva engine proposed for use in Saturn and RIFT configurations in 1961. Isp=800s. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Saturn C-3BN American nuclear orbital launch vehicle. Version of Saturn C-3 considered with small nuclear thermal stage in place of S-IVB oxygen/hydrogen stage. 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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