Big dumb booster

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Big Dumb Booster (BDB) is a general class of launch vehicle based on the premise that it is cheaper to operate large rockets of simple design than it is to operate smaller, more complex ones regardless of the lower payload efficiency.[1] As referred to by the Office of Technology Assessment:

The term Big Dumb Booster has been applied to a wide variety of concepts for low-cost launch vehicles, especially those that would use “low technology” approaches to engines and propellant tanks in the booster stage. As used here, it refers to the criterion of designing launch systems for minimum cost by using simplified subsystems where appropriate.[2]

Even though the large minimum-cost design (MCD) booster is less efficient for all around operation, its total cost of operation is cheaper because it is easier to build, operate and maintain, with the benefit of high reliability because of reduced parts counts.[1]


Concept work was led by proponents at Aerospace Corporation, TRW, and Aerojet General, beginning in the late 1950s. The typical formula included maraging steel (HY-140) for structure, pressure-fed engines using N2O4/UDMH, later LOX/RP-1, with pintle injectors scaled up from TRW's Lunar Module Descent Engine (LMDE).[1][3]

The Sea Dragon was an extremely large BDB/MCD 2-stage launch vehicle defined by Robert Truax and others at Aerojet.

TRW (now Northrup Grumman) developed and fired several engines, including their TR-106, a robust, low-cost engine of 2890 kN (650 klb) thrust to demonstrate the engine technology readiness.[4]

Beal Aerospace furthered the quintessential BDB/MCD with their BA-1 and BA-2 launch vehicles.[5]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Schnitt, Arthur (1998) Minimum Cost Design for Space Operations.
  2. ^ Big Dumb Boosters: A Low-Cost Space Transportation Option? Office of Technology Assessment, February 1989, NTIS order #PB89-155196
  3. ^ London III, John R. (October 1994). LEO on the Cheap. Air University Press. ISBN 0-89499-134-5. 
  4. ^ Dressler, Gordon A. and J. Martin Bauer (2000) TRW Pintle Engine Heritage and Performance Characteristics AIAA 2000-3871.
  5. ^ Beal Aerospace Technologies, Inc. Beal Aerospace