Super heavy-lift launch vehicle


A super heavy-lift launch vehicle (SHLLV) is a launch vehicle capable of lifting more than 50 tonnes (110,000 lb) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO).[1][2]

Comparison of Energia, Falcon Heavy, Yenisei, Long March 9, SLS, N1, Saturn V, and Starship. Masses listed are the maximum payload to low Earth orbit in metric tons.

Flown vehicles

Retired

  • Saturn V, with an Apollo program payload of a command module, service module, and Lunar Module. The three had a total mass of 45 t (99,000 lb).[3][4] When the third stage and Earth-orbit departure fuel was included, Saturn V actually placed 140 t (310,000 lb) into low Earth orbit.[5] The final launch of Saturn V placed Skylab, a 77,111 kg (170,001 lb) payload, into LEO.
  • The Space Shuttle orbited a combined[lower-alpha 1] 122,534 kg (270,142 lb) when launching the Chandra X-ray Observatory on STS-93.[6] Chandra and its two-stage Inertial Upper Stage booster rocket weighed 22,753 kg (50,162 lb).[7]
  • The Energia system was designed to launch up to 105 t (231,000 lb) to low Earth orbit.[8] Energia launched twice before the program was cancelled, but only one flight reached orbit. On the first flight, launching the Polyus weapons platform (approximately 80 t (180,000 lb)), the vehicle failed to enter orbit due to a software error on the kick-stage.[8] The second flight successfully launched the Buran orbiter. [9]

The Space Shuttle and Buran differed from traditional rockets in that both launched what was essentially a reusable stage that carried cargo internally.

Operational, but unproven as super heavy-lift

  • Falcon Heavy is rated to launch 63.8 t (141,000 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO) in a fully expendable configuration and an estimated 57 t (126,000 lb) in a partially reusable configuration, in which only two of its three boosters are recovered.[10][11][lower-alpha 2] Neither of these super-heavy lift configurations have been flown or are being planned to fly as of June 2019. The first test flight occurred on 6 February 2018, in a configuration in which recovery of all three boosters was attempted, with a small payload of 1,250 kg (2,760 lb) sent to an orbit beyond Mars.[13][14] Since the vehicle is operational but has not yet been demonstrated to launch payloads over 50 tonnes (110,000 lb) to orbit, it is as yet unproven as a super heavy-lift capable launch vehicle.

Comparison

Rocket Configuration Organization Nationality LEO payload Maiden flight First >50t payload Operational Reusable
Saturn V Apollo NASA  United States 140 t (310,000 lb)A 1967 1967 Retired No
N1 L3 Energia  Soviet Union 95 t (209,000 lb) 1969 (failed) N/A Cancelled No
Space Shuttle NASA  United States 122.5 t (270,142 lb)B 1981 1981 Retired Partially
Energia Buran Energia  Soviet Union 100 t (220,000 lb)C 1987 1987 Retired Partially
Falcon Heavy ExpendedD SpaceX  United States 63.8 t (141,000 lb)[15] Not YetD Not Yet UnprovenD No
Recoverable side boostersE 57 t (126,000 lb)[10] Not YetD Not Yet UnprovenD PartiallyE
SLS Block 1 NASA  United States 95 t (209,000 lb)[16] 2021 (planned)[17] N/A Development No
Block 1B 105 t (231,000 lb)[18] 2024 (planned)[19] N/A Development No
Block 2 130 t (290,000 lb)[20] TBA N/A Development No
Starship SpaceX  United States 150 t (330,000 lb)[21]F 2020 (planned)[22][23] N/A Development Fully
Long March 9 China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology  China 140 t (310,000 lb)[24] 2028 (planned)[25] N/A Development No
Yenisei Yenisei JSC SRC Progress  Russia 103 t (227,000 lb)[26] 2028 (planned)[27][26] N/A Development No
Don 130 t (290,000 lb)[26] 2030 (planned)[26] N/A Development No
New Armstrong Blue Origin  United States TBA[28] TBA N/A Proposed Partially or Fully

^A Includes mass of Apollo command and service modules, Apollo Lunar Module, Spacecraft/LM Adapter, Saturn V Instrument Unit, S-IVB stage, and propellant for translunar injection; payload mass to LEO is about 122.4 t (270,000 lb)[29]
^B Includes mass of orbiter and payload during STS-93; deployable payload is 27.5 t (61,000 lb)
^C Required upper stage or payload to perform final orbital insertion
^D Falcon Heavy has not yet flown in a configuration that would allow lifting 50 tonnes to LEO; to date it has only flown in the configuration that permits the possibility of recovery of the centre core (actually doing so is irrelevant) which is a configuration capable of lifting a maximum of 45 tonnes to LEO
^E Side booster cores recoverable and centre core intentionally expended. First re-use of the side boosters was demonstrated in 2019 when the ones used on the Arabsat-6A launch were reused on the STP-2 launch.
^F Does not include dry mass of spaceship

Proposed designs

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a US super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle, which is under development as of August 2019. It is the primary launch vehicle of NASA's deep space exploration plans,[30][31] including the planned crewed lunar flights of the Artemis program and a possible follow-on human mission to Mars.[32][33][34]

The SpaceX Starship is a fully reusable second stage and space vehicle being privately[35] developed by SpaceX. It is being designed to be a long-duration cargo- and passenger-carrying spacecraft.[36] While it is being used today as an independent rocket for testing, it will be used on orbital launches with an additional booster stage, the Super Heavy, where Starship would serve as the second stage on a two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle.[37] The combination of spacecraft and booster is called Starship as well.[38] Beginning in mid-2019, prototype versions are being flown with Starship as an independent rocket in its own right—without any launch vehicle booster stage at all—as part of an extensive suborbital flight testing program to get launch and landing working and iterate on a variety of design details, particularly with respect to atmospheric reentry of the vehicle.[39][35][40][41]

New Armstrong is a super heavy-lift rocket proposed by Blue Origin. Payload and timeline are unknown.[42]

Long March 9, a 140 t (310,000 lb) to LEO capable rocket has been proposed by China.[43] It has a targeted capacity of 50 t (110,000 lb) to lunar transfer orbit and first flight by 2030.[44]

Yenisei,[45] a super heavy-lift launch vehicle using existing components instead of pushing the less-powerful Angara A5V project, has been proposed by Russia's RSC Energia in August 2016.[46][47] This would allow Russia to launch missions towards establishing a permanent Moon base with simpler logistics, launching just one or two 80-to-160-tonne super-heavy rockets instead of four 40-tonne Angara A5Vs implying quick-sequence launches and multiple in-orbit rendezvous.[46] In February 2018, the КРК СТК (space rocket complex of the super-heavy class) design was updated to lift at least 90 tonnes to LEO and 20 tonnes to lunar polar orbit, and to be launched from Vostochny Cosmodrome.[48] The first flight is scheduled for 2028, with Moon landings starting in 2030.[27]

ISRO is conducting preliminary research for the development of a super heavy-lift launch vehicle which is planned to have a lifting capacity of over 50-60 tonnes (presumably into LEO).[49]

Cancelled designs

Comparison of Saturn V, Sea Dragon and Interplanetary Transport System
Comparison of Space Shuttle, Ares I, Saturn V and Ares V

Numerous super-heavy lift vehicles have been proposed and received various levels of development prior to their cancellation.

As part of the Soviet Lunar Project four N1 rockets with a payload capacity of 95 t (209,000 lb), were launched but all failed shortly after lift-off (1969-1972).[50] The program was suspended in May 1974 and formally cancelled in March 1976.[51][52]

During project Aelita (1969-1972) the Soviets were developing a way to beat the Americans to Mars. They designed the UR-700m, a nuclear powered variant of the UR-700, to assemble the 1400 t (3,000,000 lb) MK-700 spacecraft in earth orbit in 2 launches. The rocket would have a payload capacity of 750 t (1,650,000 lb) and is the most capable rocket ever designed. It is often overlooked due too little information being know about the design. The only Universal Rocket to make it passed the design phase was the UR-500 while the N1 was selected to be the Soviets HLV for lunar and mars missions.[53]

The U.S. Ares V for the Constellation program was intended to reuse many elements of the Space Shuttle program, both on the ground and flight hardware, to save costs. The Ares V was designed to carry 188 t (414,000 lb) and was cancelled in 2010, though much of the work has been carried forward into the Artemis program.

A 1962 design proposal, Sea Dragon, called for an enormous 150 m (490 ft) tall, sea-launched rocket capable of lifting 550 t (1,210,000 lb) to low Earth orbit. Although preliminary engineering of the design was done by TRW, the project never moved forward due to the closing of NASA's Future Projects Branch.[54][55]

SpaceX's first publicly released design of its Mars transportation infrastructure was the ITS launch vehicle unveiled in 2016. The payload capability was to be 550 t (1,210,000 lb) in an expendable configuration or 300 t (660,000 lb) in a reusable configuration.[56] In 2017, it was succeeded by Starship.[57]

See also

Notes

  1. The Space Shuttle orbiter is part of a stage of the launch vehicle (together with the Space Shuttle external tank), but is also itself a spacecraft capable of operating for extended periods with a crew in low Earth orbit. Whether the orbiter mass should be accounted as "payload", or the payload should be accounted as only the cargo and crew carried in the orbiter, may depend on the operational definition used, and hence is debatable. The validity of its inclusion on this page depends on this definition.
  2. A configuration in which all three cores are intended to be recoverable is classified as a heavy-lift launch vehicle since its maximum possible payload to LEO is under 50,000 kg.[12][11]

References

  1. McConnaughey, Paul K.; et al. (November 2010). "Draft Launch Propulsion Systems Roadmap: Technology Area 01" (PDF). NASA. Section 1.3. Small: 0–2 t payloads; Medium: 2–20 t payloads; Heavy: 20–50 t payloads; Super Heavy: > 50 t payloads
  2. "Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation" (PDF). Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee. NASA. October 2009. p. 64-66. ...the U.S. human spaceflight program will require a heavy-lift launcher ... in the range of 25 to 40 mt ... this strongly favors a minimum heavy-lift capacity of roughly 50 mt....
  3. "Apollo 11 Lunar Module". NASA.
  4. "Apollo 11 Command and Service Module (CSM)". NASA.
  5. Alternatives for Future U.S. Space-Launch Capabilities (PDF), The Congress of the United States. Congressional Budget Office, October 2006, pp. X, 1, 4, 9
  6. "STS-93". Shuttlepresskit.com. Archived from the original on 18 January 2000.
  7. "Heaviest payload launched - shuttle". Guinness World Records.
  8. "Polyus". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  9. "Buran". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  10. Musk, Elon [@elonmusk] (12 February 2018). "Side boosters landing on droneships & center expended is only ~10% performance penalty vs fully expended. Cost is only slightly higher than an expended F9, so around $95M" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  11. "Capabilities & Services". SpaceX. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  12. Elon Musk [@elonmusk] (30 April 2016). "@elonmusk Max performance numbers are for expendable launches. Subtract 30% to 40% for reusable booster payload" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  13. Chang, Kenneth (6 February 2018). "Falcon Heavy, SpaceX's Big New Rocket, Succeeds in Its First Test Launch". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  14. "Tesla Roadster (AKA: Starman, 2018-017A)". ssd.jpl.nasa.gov. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  15. "Falcon Heavy". SpaceX. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  16. Harbaugh, Jennifer, ed. (9 July 2018). "The Great Escape: SLS Provides Power for Missions to the Moon". NASA. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  17. "NASA's large SLS rocket unlikely to fly before at least late 2021". 17 July 2019.
  18. "Space Launch System" (PDF). NASA Facts. NASA. 11 October 2017. FS-2017-09-92-MSFC. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  19. Sloss, Philip (11 September 2018). "NASA updates Lunar Gateway plans". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  20. Creech, Stephen (April 2014). "NASA's Space Launch System: A Capability for Deep Space Exploration" (PDF). NASA. p. 2. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  21. Elon Musk [@elonmusk] (23 May 2019). "Aiming for 150 tons useful load in fully reusable configuration, but should be at least 100 tons, allowing for mass growth" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  22. "The first SpaceX BFR should make orbital launches by 2020". 19 March 2018. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  23. https://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2019/03/19/elon-musk-spacexs-starship-built-and-launched-florida/3212090002/
  24. Mizokami, Kyle (20 March 2018). "China Working on a New Heavy-Lift Rocket as Powerful as Saturn V". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  25. Wong, Brian (20 September 2018). "Long March 9 will take 140 tons to low-earth orbit starting 2028". Next Big Future. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  26. "Russia's super-heavy rocket to deliver landing/launch module to Moon in 2029 – report". RT. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  27. Zak, Anatoly (8 February 2019). "Russia Is Now Working on a Super Heavy Rocket of Its Own". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  28. https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-lunar-lander-2018-10
  29. https://www.space.com/33691-space-launch-system-most-powerful-rocket.html
  30. Siceloff, Steven (12 April 2015). "SLS Carries Deep Space Potential". Nasa.gov. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  31. "World's Most Powerful Deep Space Rocket Set To Launch In 2018". Iflscience.com. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  32. Chiles, James R. "Bigger Than Saturn, Bound for Deep Space". Airspacemag.com. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  33. "Finally, some details about how NASA actually plans to get to Mars". Arstechnica.com. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  34. Gebhardt, Chris (6 April 2017). "NASA finally sets goals, missions for SLS – eyes multi-step plan to Mars". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  35. Berger, Eric (29 September 2019). "Elon Musk, Man of Steel, reveals his stainless Starship". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  36. Lawler, Richard (20 November 2018). "SpaceX BFR has a new name: Starship". Engadget. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  37. Boyle, Alan (19 November 2018). "Goodbye, BFR … hello, Starship: Elon Musk gives a classic name to his Mars spaceship". GeekWire. Retrieved 22 November 2018. Starship is the spaceship/upper stage & Super Heavy is the rocket booster needed to escape Earth’s deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons)
  38. "Starship". SpaceX. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  39. Berger, Eric (15 May 2019). "SpaceX plans to A/B test its Starship rocketship builds". Ars Technica. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  40. Starship is the spaceship/upper stage & Super Heavy is the rocket booster needed to escape Earth’s deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons), SpaceX, Elon Musk, 19 November 2018, accessed 10 August 2019.
  41. Chris Gebhardt (29 September 2017). "The Moon, Mars, & around the Earth – Musk updates BFR architecture, plans". Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  42. Samantha Masunaga (12 September 2016). "Blue Origin's new, more powerful rocket will compete with SpaceX". Los Angeles Times.
  43. Covault, Craig (18 July 2012). "First Look: China's Big New Rockets". AmericaSpace.
  44. "China achieves key breakthrough in multiple launch vehicles". Space Daily. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  45. Zak, Anatoly (19 February 2019). "The Yenisei super-heavy rocket". RussianSpaceWeb. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  46. "Russia's A5V moon mission rocket may be replaced with new super-heavy-lift vehicle". RT.com. 22 August 2016. Energia and Roscosmos are “working on a super heavy-lift launch vehicle (SHLLV) that would use an engine that we already have, the RD-171,” Vladimir Solntsev told Izvestia newspaper. [...] The proposed new SHLLV would initially have a LEO lift of 80 tonnes with a potential to increase the figure to 120 tonnes or even 160 tonnes, according to Solntsev.
  47. "«Роскосмос» создаст новую сверхтяжелую ракету". Izvestia (in Russian). 22 August 2016.
  48. "РКК "Энергия" стала головным разработчиком сверхтяжелой ракеты-носителя" [RSC Energia is the lead developer of the super-heavy carrier rocket]. RIA.ru. RIA Novosti. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  49. "Have tech to configure launch vehicle that can carry 50-tonne payload: Isro chairman - Times of India". The Times of India. 14 February 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  50. "N1 Moon Rocket". Russianspaceweb.com.
  51. Harvey, Brian (2007). Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration. Springer-Praxis Books in Space Exploration. Springer Science+Business Media. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-387-21896-0.
  52. van Pelt, Michel (2017). Dream Missions: Space Colonies, Nuclear Spacecraft and Other Possibilities. Springer-Praxis Books in Space Exploration. Springer Science+Business Media. p. 22. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-53941-6. ISBN 978-3-319-53939-3.
  53. "UR-700M". www.astronautix.com. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  54. Grossman, David (3 April 2017). "The Enormous Sea-Launched Rocket That Never Flew". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  55. “Study of Large Sea-Launch Space Vehicle,” Contract NAS8-2599, Space Technology Laboratories, Inc./Aerojet General Corporation Report #8659-6058-RU-000, Vol. 1 – Design, January 1963
  56. "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species" (PDF). SpaceX. 27 September 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  57. Boyle, Alan (19 November 2018). "Goodbye, BFR … hello, Starship: Elon Musk gives a classic name to his Mars spaceship". GeekWire. Retrieved 22 November 2018.

Further reading