Neha Patil

Super heavy lift launch vehicle

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


Successful vehicles

Three vehicles have successfully launched super heavy lift payloads:

  • Saturn V, with an Apollo program payload of a Command Module, Service Module, and Lunar Module. The three had a total mass of 45,000 kg (99,000 lb). When the third stage and earth-orbit departure fuel was included, Saturn V actually placed 140,000 kg (310,000 lb) into low earth orbit.
  • The Space Shuttle orbited a combined 122,534 kg (270,142 lb) when launching the Chandra X-ray Observatory on STS-93.
  • Energia, with a one-time payload of an unmanned Buran orbiter at 62,000 kg (137,000 lb).
  • The Space Shuttle and Energia-Buran orbiter differed in that both launched what was essentially a reusable, manned third stage that carried cargo internally. Though a cargo version of Shuttle was proposed, it was never built. A cargo version of Energia was developed and launched, however the Polyus module it carried failed to achieve orbit. Similarly, four Soviet N1 rockets launched with a payload capacity of 95,000 kg (209,000 lb), but all four failed shortly after lift-off (1969-1972).

    In development

    These rockets are currently undergoing active development:

  • Falcon Heavy in a fully expendable configuration, 54,400 kg (119,900 lb)
  • Space Launch System (SLS), 130,000 kg (290,000 lb)
  • Blue Origin New Glenn, estimated at 35,000–70,000 kg (77,000–154,000 lb); though payload capacity has not been officially announced, thrust levels for the first stage suggest placement of the vehicle in the super-heavy lift class.
  • ITS launch vehicle, 550,000 kg (1,200,000 lb) (expendable) or 300,000 kg (660,000 lb) (reusable)
  • Numerous super-heavy lift vehicles have been proposed and received various levels of development prior to their cancellation. Perhaps furthest along was the U.S. Ares V for the Constellation program. This was designed to carry 188,000 kg (414,000 lb) and was cancelled in 2010, though much of the work has been carried forward into the SLS program. While the 140,000 kg (310,000 lb) class Long March 9 has been proposed by China, it is in very early stages of development. Similarly, the Russian Angara A7 rocket has been proposed with a lifting capability of 35,000 to 50,000 kg (77,000 to 110,000 lb), which would likely put it into the heavy lift class.

    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. This would allow Russia to launch missions towards establishing a permanent Moon base with simpler logistics, launching just one or two 80-to-160-ton super-heavy rockets instead of four 40-ton Angara A5Vs implying quick-sequence launches and multiple in-orbit rendezvous.


    Super heavy-lift launch vehicle Wikipedia

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