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Blue

Comparison of Super-Heavy Launchers

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After stumbling upon some of the crazier versions of big things meant for space that people thought about in the real world (rather than in sci-fi), I thought I'd put together a rough comparison of some of them.

nr3DlYs.jpg

What I found very curious is how much organizing I had to do to put them in order, because their payload capacity was not proportional to their size. It also made me raise an eyebrow at the purported lifting power of the Ares V, especially in comparison to other designs, both past and more recent.

I look forward to the development of the SLS, but also I like to look back on things like the Saturn MLV with a Nerva engine, and think about What-Could-Have-Been. :)

EDIT: These are NOT as big as the Empire State Building. I confused the scale that the Saturn V is more than 300 ft tall, and the Empire State Building is more than 300 meters tall.

EDIT 2: Fixed the Space Shuttle, added Buran and Ariane 5, added weights of SLS.

Edited by Blue
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Two things strike me... That falcon 9 is a beast compared to it's size. And the sheer size of these rockets had not really registered with me.

Thank you it's very informative.

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F9H is, certainly. Largely thanks to propellant crossfeed, or asparagus staging as we KSP players call it.

I'd call Ares I just as "Unbuilt" as the N1. The Ares I-X test launch worked better than the 4 N1 test launches, but the upper stage was just a boilerplate.

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Lol, the way this is set out seems to be suggesting that the Empire State Building is capable of lifting 396,500 tons into LEO.

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I'd call Ares I just as "Unbuilt" as the N1. The Ares I-X test launch worked better than the 4 N1 test launches, but the upper stage was just a boilerplate.

The Ares I-X launch had absolutely nothing to do with the real thing. They used a stock 4-segment Space Shuttle SRB. It's a tested SRB, there's not much else it can do except to fly. Using a 5th segment in an SRB (as they planned for the Ares-I) results in a completely different motor and requires a lot of development and testing. Buzz Aldrin wrote an interesting post about that.

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Isn't empire state building way too small?

Edit: feet and meters mix up possible? I think maybe the Washington Monument would work better

Edited by Fuzzy Dunlop

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It list the N1 as "unbuilt", since 4 where built and launched, that´s a bit thin. They did however go very very kerbal ;)

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The Ares I-X launch had absolutely nothing to do with the real thing. They used a stock 4-segment Space Shuttle SRB. It's a tested SRB, there's not much else it can do except to fly. Using a 5th segment in an SRB (as they planned for the Ares-I) results in a completely different motor and requires a lot of development and testing. Buzz Aldrin wrote an interesting post about that.

Basically my point by "unbuilt." Even moreso than N1, to be fair.

It list the N1 as "unbuilt", since 4 where built and launched, that´s a bit thin. They did however go very very kerbal ;)

Compared to 0 flight-representative Ares I's.

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Isn't empire state building way too small?

Edit: feet and meters mix up possible? I think maybe the Washington Monument would work better

Yep you're right. The Empire State Building is 381m - not feet - high.

Compared to 0 flight-representative Ares I's.

Maybe it's be a good idea to introduce a third category: Entered testing, but program aborted

EDIT:

  • The Delta 4 showed needs to be the heavy (3CBCs) version to have a 22.5t LEO capability.
  • The designer of the N1 is OKB-1 (russian for design bureau), Korolev's engineering bureau.
  • The Atlas V Heavy (with 29t LEO payload capability) is still in development and not the version showed in the image. According to ULA, the heaviest Atlas V can deliver 18810kg to LEO.

Edited by philly_idle

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Ares I-X was never intended as being representative of the real thing in any way except stability testing. It had the correct aerodynamics and mass distribution for a production unit, and thus could confirm that the damned thing wouldn't tumble or inexorably arc over into Titusville or anything when launched.

These *are* important things to test full-scale, as we still haven't fully wrapped our heads around wind tunnel scaling effects.

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As Fuzzy Dunlop said, the Empire State building is way too small and should be a good four times the size of the one in the current image.

Also, wasn't the Nova launcher was designed to lift more than the Saturn V? And be much larger? (Which is why it was deemed unpractical and not chosen for the Apollo program, with it's 8 F-1 engines in the first stage...)

Nice image, though. I'm suddenly very excited for the SLS rockets, despite being angry at the demise of the Ares rockets.

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Nova was originally designed for the Lunar Direct Ascent mission profile. When NASA switched to Lunar Orbital Rendezvous, it was no longer needed and Von Braun went for Saturn V.

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Nova was originally designed for the Lunar Direct Ascent mission profile. When NASA switched to Lunar Orbital Rendezvous, it was no longer needed and Von Braun went for Saturn V.

Right, I know that, but I asked: Wasn't Nova supposed to be larger than the Saturn V, and lift more?

In the size comparison the Nova is obviously much larger than the Saturn V, but supposedly lifts much less. However, Direct Ascent would require more mass to be lifted, where LOR greatly reduced mass.

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The Soviets also had the Energia launcher, which could carry 100 tonnes into low Earth orbit.

Edited by Pipcard

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^^^ Love that booster, its in the bobcat soviet pack and I use it all the time.

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Yep you're right. The Empire State Building is 381m - not feet - high.

Maybe it's be a good idea to introduce a third category: Entered testing, but program aborted

EDIT:

  • The Delta 4 showed needs to be the heavy (3CBCs) version to have a 22.5t LEO capability.
  • The designer of the N1 is OKB-1 (russian for design bureau), Korolev's engineering bureau.
  • The Atlas V Heavy (with 29t LEO payload capability) is still in development and not the version showed in the image. According to ULA, the heaviest Atlas V can deliver 18810kg to LEO.

I'ma clean this up.

Right, I know that, but I asked: Wasn't Nova supposed to be larger than the Saturn V, and lift more?

In the size comparison the Nova is obviously much larger than the Saturn V, but supposedly lifts much less. However, Direct Ascent would require more mass to be lifted, where LOR greatly reduced mass.

This was my reaction

RDJ_Woah.gif

When I found this:

extrapolation.jpg

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^That Nova can probably launch a manned Mars mission in one go.

Fictional (but realistic) launch vehicles made by Forum Orbiter Italia for Orbiter Space Flight Simulator:

llmq.png

From left to right:

01: Triton (5 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit)

02/03: Neptune-1 (10/13 t) and wide-fairing version

04: Neptune-1b (17 t)

The Jarvis family is based on an actual proposal for a single rocket derived from Saturn V and Space Shuttle technology.

05: Jarvis-S (Single-engine, 21 t)

06: Jarvis-L (Light, 28 t)

07: Jarvis-C (Commercial, 34 t to LEO, 13 t to Geostationary Transfer Orbit)

08: Jarvis-B (Basic, 44 t)

09: Jarvis-E (Enhanced, 55 t)

10: Jarvis-H (Heavy, 86 t to LEO, 31 t to Lunar transfer)

11: Jarvis-M (Moon, 129 t to LEO, 49 t to Lunar transfer)

12: Quasar-220 (93 t)

13: Quasar-440 (158 t)

14: Quasar-452 (233 t to LEO, 85 t to Lunar transfer)

Edited by Pipcard

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Also, wasn't the Nova launcher was designed to lift more than the Saturn V? And be much larger? (Which is why it was deemed unpractical and not chosen for the Apollo program, with it's 8 F-1 engines in the first stage...)

Which Nova launcher? The pre Apollo ones, or the 'post Apollo' ones? After all the major contracts were signed for Apollo, NASA handed out a raftload of study contracts to contractors that didn't get any big pieces of Apollo, and the really big Nova launchers come from these 'consolation prize' studies. (Blue's slide #4 shows one of these.) Plus, all Nova variants were paper rockets and thus under constant flux - there never really was a single finished design, only an ongoing family of concepts.

The pre-Apollo Nova was abandoned because it required new facilities and because it was believed to be too big and complex to complete on time... The Saturn family was thought to be smaller and simpler and thus more likely to reach maturity within Kennedy's deadline. Oddly enough, as the Saturn C-5 morphed into the Saturn V, it ended up just as big and complex as the abandoned (pre-Apollo) Novas were trending.

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Ares I-X was never intended as being representative of the real thing in any way except stability testing. It had the correct aerodynamics and mass distribution for a production unit, and thus could confirm that the damned thing wouldn't tumble or inexorably arc over into Titusville or anything when launched.

The thought of a Kerbal flight profile like that happening at the modern, familiar Space Coast stimulated an idea that still has me grinning dangerously. Let me paint the scene:

[visual: Distant, faintly hazy view of a large, black-and-white painted rocket on Pad 39B. Most of the umbilical booms have retracted. A gentle breeze stirs the tree branches and carries wisps of fog away from the cryogenic tanks. The Big Countdown Clock in the foreground passes T-00:20:00.]

[audio] "Hullo! Scott Manley heeir!"

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What a shame that there don't count the Energia in the list! Why do so much people forget the coolest heavy-launcher Russia / Soviet union ever made?!

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Ah, I didn't know about the post-Apollo Nova.

Blue, I see you updated the image, but there's one mix up with the Space Shuttle and Ares I. It says the Space Shuttle was tested and cancelled and the Ares I was used. Looks like you moved the purple gradient a little bit out of place.

And what do you mean the Iron Giant was never built? How else would they have made that movie!?

Also, you should definitely consider adding some other popular rockets to this image, such as Russian Soyuz and some Arianne rockets.

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Soyuz isn't heavy lift - the Protons are, though. (Everyone and their dog already mentioned Energija). Ariane V should make into the list, the previous ones were in the class of Soyuz more or less.

Also, to do the Shuttle justice (and to explain why Ares V seems so overpowered) you could mention that the true "throw weight" to LEO of STS was 100 tons - 24 in the cargo bay plus the weight of the Shuttle itself ;) )

I guess that the striking difference in sizes is due to the very low density of hydrogen - and all Falcon stages are all based on LOX/Kerosene.

Edited by thorfinn

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Nice graphic.

The ones that are big in size compared to mass are the hydrogen-oxygen rockets, like the Delta-IV H. The smaller denser ones are the kerosene-oxygen rockets, like the Falcon Heavy. Hydrogen is more efficient than kerosene, but it takes up a lot more volume. For example, the Shuttle external tank uses hydrogen, so it's pretty light. The two solid boosters on the side look small, but they're about 70% of the mass of the stack.

By the way, the SLS Block 1 weighs 2650 tons, SLS Block 1A is 2700 tons, and SLS Block 2 is 2950 tons according to this website. The Ares I was 900 tons and the Ares V was 3360 tons, although mass and payload vary from different sources.

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^That Nova can probably launch a manned Mars mission in one go.

Fictional (but realistic) launch vehicles made by Forum Orbiter Italia for Orbiter Space Flight Simulator:

llmq.png

From left to right:

01: Triton (5 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit)

02/03: Neptune-1 (10/13 t) and wide-fairing version

04: Neptune-1b (17 t)

The Jarvis family is based on an actual proposal for a single rocket derived from Saturn V and Space Shuttle technology.

05: Jarvis-S (Single-engine, 21 t)

06: Jarvis-L (Light, 28 t)

07: Jarvis-C (Commercial, 34 t to LEO, 13 t to Geostationary Transfer Orbit)

08: Jarvis-B (Basic, 44 t)

09: Jarvis-E (Enhanced, 55 t)

10: Jarvis-H (Heavy, 86 t to LEO, 31 t to Lunar transfer)

11: Jarvis-M (Moon, 129 t to LEO, 49 t to Lunar transfer)

12: Quasar-220 (93 t)

13: Quasar-440 (158 t)

14: Quasar-452 (233 t to LEO, 85 t to Lunar transfer)

Yes those are awesome vehicles :D

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Some questions.

1. Why are the Spacex rockets so very heavy for their size? Eg. the Falcon Heavy is much smaller than the Delta IV but nearly twice as heavy.

2. I thought our rocket building capabilities were supposed to have improved since Saturn V, so why is it still the most powerful launcher percentage-of-mass-that-gets-to-space-wise? According to this chart at least.

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