Various kind of heavy lift rockets and their utility

by | Technology |

Various kind of heavy lift rockets and their utility

A heavy lift launch vehicle is a type of rocket. "Launch vehicle" is a term used to describe rockets that launch people or payloads. Rockets come in many sizes. Some rockets are more powerful than others. Different rockets have different purposes. Heavy lift rockets are the most powerful type of rockets. It's an orbital launch vehicle capable of lifting between 20,000 to 50,000 kg to low Earth orbit (LEO).

Heavy lift launch vehicles can do things that other rockets cannot do. They can launch larger payloads into low Earth orbit. The Saturn V rocket, for example, launched an entire space station, Skylab, in one launch. The Saturn V could launch about 130 tons into Earth orbit. That's about as much weight as 10 school buses. Heavy lift launch vehicles can also lift large satellites into higher orbits. These higher orbits can offer special benefits. For example, a satellite around 22,000 miles from the surface of Earth can be in geostationary orbit. In that orbit, the satellite orbits Earth once per day. As a result, it stays over the same point on the Earth's surface. This is useful for communications satellites.

Heavy lift launch vehicles can also be used for missions to other worlds. The Saturn V rocket made it possible for people to land on the moon. That rocket could launch about 50 tons to the moon. That's about the same as four school buses. If humans are going to explore other worlds, a heavy lift launch vehicle could be used to make that possible.

Various kind of heavy lift rockets

  • NASA's Saturn V (5) rocket was the most powerful heavy-lift launch vehicle to fly successfully. Other heavy lift launch vehicles include the Titan IV (4) and Delta IV (4) Heavy, Russia's Proton and Europe's Ariane 5.

  • 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). When the third stage and Earth-orbit departure fuel was included, Saturn V actually placed 140 t (310,000 lb) into low Earth orbit. The final launch of Saturn V placed a 77,111 kg (170,001 lb) payload into LEO.

  • The Space Shuttle orbited a combined 122,534 kg (270,142 lb) when launching the Chandra X-ray Observatory on STS-93. Chandra and its two-stage Inertial Upper Stage booster rocket weighed 22,753 kg (50,162 lb).

  • Energia launched two payloads before the program was canceled: the Polyus weapons platform at approximately 80 t (180,000 lb) and Buran orbiter, only one of which reached orbit. The system was designed to launch up to 105 t (231,000 lb) to low Earth orbit. Polyus failed to enter orbit due to a software error on the kick-stage.

Stock photo from Leo_Traveling

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

  • Falcon Heavy is rated to launch 63.8 t (141,000 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO) in a fully expendable configuration. In a partially reusable configuration in which its two boosters are recovered, it can launch an estimated 57 t (126,000 lb) to LEO. Its first launch occurred on 6 February 2018, but it has not yet launched a heavy or super-heavy payload.

  • In August 2016, Russia's RSC Energia announced plans to develop a super-heavy-lift launch vehicle using existing components instead of pushing the less-powerful Angara A5V project.

  • The Block 1 configuration is currently targeted for launch in June 2020, with other configurations of increasingly higher lift capacities from 2023 to 2029. Block 1 will be capable of launching a minimum of 70 t (150,000 lb) to low-Earth orbit, and approximately 26 t (57,000 lb) to a trans-lunar injection point.

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


Stock photo from Nostalgia for Infinity