This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at Miscellany

RSA-3 and RSA-4
RSA-3 and RSA-4 - Cutaway views of RSA-3 and RSA-4 South African space launchers

Credit: © Mark Wade. 9,122 bytes. 142 x 436 pixels.

Various independently-funded launch vehicles have been advocated, designed, and even developed over the years. A lot of these are attempts to build low-cost launch vehicles using simpler technology. Often such projects begin based on a low cost liquid fuel technology but end up just trying to sell various combinations of Castor solid fuel stages. These enterprises often discover there's more to coming up with a reliable launch vehicle than slashing together a bunch of 'off the shelf' rocket motors and lighting the fuse.... On the other hand, if there is ever a breakthrough in less expensive access to space, it will come through one of these entrepreneurial scheme...

Launch Vehicle: Tsiolkovsky.

Launch Vehicle: Opel. Fritz von Opel sponsored early tests of rocket-powered automobiles and aircraft, popularizing the idea of rocket propulsion in Germany.

Launch Vehicle: JATO.

JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) rockets came in many types and were used to shorten the takeoff of aircraft in short field or overload conditions. They were among the first practical applications of rocketry, and much early development of rocket technology by JPL, Aerojet, Goddard, and others was devoted to JATO applications.

Launch Vehicle: ARS.

The American Interplanetary Society, later the American Rocket Society (ARS), founded in New York City by David Lasser, G. Edward Pendray, Fletcher Pratt, and nine others, for the "promotion of interest in and experimentation toward interplanetary expeditions and travel.". The ARS launched a series of small experimental rockets in the 1930's.

Launch Vehicle: Schmiedl. Start of official rocket-mail service between two Austrian towns by Friedrich Schmiedl; test flights began in February 1931, while rocket-mail service continued until March 16, 1933.

Launch Vehicle: Swan. William G. Swan stayed aloft for 30 minutes over Atlantic City, N.J., in a glider powered with 10 small rockets.

Launch Vehicle: Winkler.

Johannes Winkler built and flew a number of pioneering rockets in Germany and was the first President of the VfR. After the failure of his HW-2 rocket he returned to his old job at Junkers, and then worked for the government Luftforschungsanstalt (Aeronautical Research Institute) during World War II. Although he designed a number of JATO units and sounding rockets, none were ever put into production. He died at Braunschweig-Querum on 27 December 1947.

Launch Vehicle: He-112.

The Heinkel He-112 was an unsuccessful pre-war German monoplane fighter, competing for orders with the Bf 109. However it entered rocketry history when tests were conducted with rocket engines.

Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 680hp Junkers Jumo 210Da
Wing Span: 11.50m Length: 9.00m Height: 3.70m Wing Area: 23.20m2
Empty Weight: 1680kg
Speed: 488km/h Ceiling: 8000m

Launch Vehicle: Truax. The US Navy's R. C. Truax, at Annapolis, Md., developed a number of pioneering early rockets.

Launch Vehicle: Me-163.

The rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me-163 was the world's first and only operational pure rocket fighter and represented the culmination of Alexander Lippisch's years of research in rocketplanes, tail-less aircraft, and delta wings. As a weapon, the Me-163 had tremendous speed but very limited range. However the concepts developed by Lippisch contributed to the Space Shuttle and Buran orbiters of a quarter century later.

Launch Vehicle: Wac Corporal. The JPL-Ordnance Wac Corporal was an early technology testbed, which led eventually to the operational Corporal rocket of the US Army.

Launch Vehicle: Wac.

The JPL-Ordnance Wac was the first American rocket to escape the earth's atmosphere. The technology developed here would lead to the Viking sounding rocket, the Vanguard satellite launcher, the Titan ICBM, and (via Chinese rocket experts expelled from the US in the 1950's) to the Chinese Long March family.

Launch Vehicle: Kappa. The Kappa series represented Japan's first large post-war indigenously-developed sounding rockets. They led eventually to the Lambda and Mu solid rocket satellite launchers.

Launch Vehicle: NOTS.

The US Navy's satellite launcher project competed with the Army's Jupiter-C, the Air Force Atlas, and the civilian Vanguard. Air-launched satellite launch vehicle, and anti-satellite versions, tested by the US Navy shortly after Sputnik. One may have achieved orbit.

Launch Vehicle: Caleb. Heavily classifed project related to air-launched ASAT development. Launch tests in 1958. NOTS project staff believed they successully orbited a satellite but unconfirmed.

Launch Vehicle: Little Joe. Little Joe was used to test the Mercury capsule launch escape system.

Launch Vehicle: Redstone Mercury.

Suborbital. Unmanned Project Mercury spacecraft launched by modified Redstone booster (MR-1) in a suborbital trajectory, impacting 235 miles downrange after reaching an altitude of 135 miles and a speed of near 4,200 mph. Capsule was recovered about 50 minutes after firing.The objective was to qualify the spacecraft for a primate flight scheduled shortly thereafter. Apart from the launch vehicle cutoff velocity being slightly higher than normal, all flight sequences were satisfactory.

Launch Vehicle: Rocket belt.

In the 1960's Bell Aerosystems caught the public imagination with a series of rocket and jet-powered rocket belts. Rocket belt-equipped fliers became a symbol of the future and a fixture at World Fairs, football games, etc. But the technology was too expensive and limited to ever be adopted for military or civilian terrestrial purposes.

Launch Vehicle: SLS A-410.

In 1961 the Air Force completed studies on a family of advanced heavy-lift launch vehicles for use in the late 1960's and on. The smallest identified member of this family, selected to place the Air Force Lunex lunar lander re-entry vehicle in a low earth orbit for initial tests, was the A-410. This evidently consisted of a smallish Lox/LH2 stage supplemented by solid fuel booster rockets.

Launch Vehicle: SLS AB-825.

The AB-825 represented a medium launch vehicle of the USAF 1961 Space Launch System family. The AB-825 would have conducted earth orbit tests of partially-fuelled Lunex lunar lander stages, and also have boosted the Lunex manned glider on circumlunar test flights. It consisted of the 'A' stage, evidently somewhere in size between the Centaur and Saturn IV, the 'B' stage with a single J-2 engine, and some solid fuel booster motors.

Launch Vehicle: SLS BC-2720.

In 1961 the Air Force completed several years of studies for a family of advanced heavy-lift launch vehicles for use in the late 1960's and on. Development of solid and liquid rocket engines was already begun to support this effort. One member of this family, selected to boost the Air Force Lunex lunar lander on a direct lunar trajectory, was the BC-2720. This would have used four 180 inch solid rocket boosters strapped around an the 'C' Lox/LH2 core vehicle. The core would have required either 12 J-2 engines or 2 M-1 engines. The translunar injection third stage was the 'B', with a single J-2 engine.

NASA, not the Air Force, received the task of going to the moon and building large boosters. But the Saturn series was abandoned, while the BC-2720 resembles very much the Shuttle configuration. Perhaps if things had been different...

Launch Vehicle: Little Joe II. Used to launch Apollo Command Module and Launch Escape System in LES tests.

Launch Vehicle: LCLV.

As a result of TRW's review of the Truax/Aerojet Sea Dragon, TRW became so interested in the concept that they undertook studies of their own, which resulted in a design that became known as the 'Big Dumb Booster'. They proposed structural approaches that were even more conservative than Aerojet's, e.g., the use of T-180 steel instead of maraging steel, which would result in even heavier and cheaper tankage. TRW finally obtained USAF funding for fabrication of stage sections and demonstration of scaled-up versions of the TRW pump-fed Apollo Lunar Module ascent engine. The design promised low cost access to space using low technology (steel stages built to low tolerances in shipyards, pressure-fed engines, and low cost storable propellants). But yet again neither NASA or USAF showed interest in true cheap access to space.

Launch Vehicle: Black Arrow.

Britain's only indigenous launch vehicle. Used unique propellant combination and large number of simple motors. Black Arrow was a three stage vehicle. The first stage had an 8 chamber layout with 4 pairs of Gamma engines gimballed as with Black Knight giving thrust in all axes. The second stage had two Gamma chambers with extended nozzles to give full expansion in vacuum. Both engines were gimballed to provide thrust in three axes. The third stage for Black Arrow was a Waxwing solid rocket motor manufactured by RPE Westcott.

Launch Vehicle: Percheron. Low cost commercial test vehicle. First test failed and satellite launch project sank for lack of further investors and customers.

Launch Vehicle: Conestoga. Commercial launch vehicle.

Launch Vehicle: Otrag.

German project, using Libyan funds with flight test in Zaire, for production of missiles/satellite launchers using clusters of huge numbers of low cost, pressure fed liquid fuel units. Configuration shown ('Centaur class') would have launched 10,000 kg payload to LEO using 625 (!) of the $ 8300 units (1980 prices). Project, seen as cover for ballistic missile project, squelched by US and German governments. 'Minimum satellite' launch vehicle would have used 81 half-length units.

Launch Vehicle: Industrial Launch Vehicle.

Launch Vehicle: Liberty. Private commercial launch vehicle.

Launch Vehicle: Shavit.

Satellite launcher derived from Jericho II MRBM, essentially identical to South African RSA-3. NEXT was a variant with an improved upper stage for proposed launch from Wallops Island, USA (launch from Israel is only possible into retrograde orbits since due East launch would be over territory of adjacent countries).

Launch Vehicle: Tamouz.

Iraqi space launch vehicle/ICBM based on clustering of Scud tactical missiles. Canadian rocket scientist Gerald Bull was allegedly killed by Israeli agents not for his work on the supergun, but rather for his much more damaging assistance to the Iraqis in doing the dynamic calculations for the Tamouz.

Launch Vehicle: Dolphin.

The Dolphin hybrid rocket (solid fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer) was built by Starstruck (formerly ARC Technology), a predecessor to AMROC. The Dolphin included not only innovative propulsion technology but was also launched from a floating launch cannister at sea. One test article of the hybrid was successfully launched in the summer of 1984. But the project was backed entirely with private funds and when backing for further development was not forthcoming, the project folded.

Launch Vehicle: Boeing EELV.

Launch Vehicle: Athena-1. Privately funded solid propellant satellite launch vehicle. Basic version with Castor 120 first stage, Orbus second stage, and OAM Orbital Adjustment Module. Formerly LMLV (Lockheed-Martin Launch Vehicle); LLV (Lockheed Launch Vehicle) .

Launch Vehicle: VLM. Brazilian satellite launcher using core of VLS only. Planned for launch of microsatellites. First launch 2002 or later.

Launch Vehicle: VLS. Brazilian satellite launcher building on successful family of sounding rockets.

Launch Vehicle: Athena-2.

Privately funded solid propellant satellite launch vehicle. Basic version with Castor 120 first stage, Castor 120 second stage, Orbus third stage, and OAM Orbital Adjustment Module. Formerly LMLV 2 (Lockheed-Martin Launch Vehicle); LLV 2 (Lockheed Launch Vehicle) .

Launch Vehicle: Athena-3. Planned but never flown heavier-lift version of Athena. Formerly LMLV 3 (Lockheed-Martin Launch Vehicle); LLV 3 (Lockheed Launch Vehicle) - privately funded satellite launch vehicle.

Launch Vehicle: Excalibur Model S. Two recoverable pressure-fed stages.

Launch Vehicle: Shavit 1. Shavit 1 is an improved version of the original Shavit with a stretched first stage motor.

Launch Vehicle: Taepodong 1.

North Korea announced the launch of its first satellite on 31 August 1998. Despite these claims no foreign observer ever detected the satellite visually, by radar, or picked up its radio signals. The Pentagon at first claimed it was an ICBM launch, and that the satellite story was just a cover for the test. However on further analysis of the data collected on the launch they admitted nearly a month later that there had been some a satellite launch attempt. What seems to have happened is that the third stage either failed and fell into the Pacific or misfired and put the satellite into a low orbit where it decayed very quickly before it could be detected by foreign observers.

The launch vehicle consisted of the No-Dong 1 IRBM as a first stage. This IRBM uses a cluster of four rocket engines derived from the ‘Scud-C’ version produced by the North Koreans. The second stage was derived from the Scud-C itself. The third stage was probably a small solid rocket engine. These missiles were developed and put into production in North Korea with assistance from Russian technicians from the Makeyev design bureau in the Gorbachev era. The specifics of the vehicle provided here are according to a Russian engineering analysis of the publicly released information and video.

The importance of the Taepodong 1 is that it is the first of what will be a proliferation of ICBM and satellite launchers that will be in the hands of smaller developing countries in the next century.

Launch Vehicle: SA-1.

Launch Vehicle: LeoLink LK-1. Satellite launcher derived from planned Israeli Shavit-2 launch vehicle, but with rocket motors and major components built in USA to qualify for US contracts.

Launch Vehicle: LeoLink LK-2. Satellite launcher derived from planned Israeli Shavit-2 launch vehicle, but with rocket motors and major components built in USA to qualify for US contracts, and a Castor-120 motor as the first stage.

Launch Vehicle: Beal BA-2.

The Beal Aerospace BA-2 was a privately-financed heavy-lift commercial launch vehicle that used innovative technical solutions to achieve low cost to orbit. It harkened back to the low-cost Truax Sea Dragon or TRW 'Big Dumb Booster' concepts of the 1960's but added several new twists. The three-stage launcher stood 72 m tall and had the capacity to lift 6.000 kg to geosynchronous transfer orbit and 17,000 kg to low earth orbit. The BA-2 had a constant diameter of 6.2 m and a large payload fairing that could accommodate side-by-side placement of larger satellite payloads. The vehicle employed one pressure-fed centreline engine per stage. Hydrogen peroxide and standard aviation fuel were used as propellants, providing environmental advantages. Tank pressurisation was by inert helium gas. The pressure-fed technique negated the use of costly and complicated turbo pumps. Beal abandoned the project at the end of 2000 after the collapse of the MEO satellite market and active measures by NASA to support other, competing, more high-tech projects by the major aerospace contractors.

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Last update 3 May 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .