Heavy-lift launch vehicle

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A United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Heavy rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload launches Aug. 28, 2013, from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Ariane 5 ES launch
Proton-M on the launch pad

A heavy-lift launch vehicle, or HLV or HLLV, is an orbital launch vehicle capable of lifting between 20,000 to 50,000 kg to low Earth orbit.[1] According to NASA, as of August 2014, heavy-lift launch vehicles include the Ariane 5, the Falcon Heavy (in reusable configuration), Falcon 9 (in expandable configuration), Proton, the Long March 5 and the Delta IV Heavy.[2]

Heavy lift rated launch vehicles[edit]

Currently operational launch vehicles with demonstrated heavy-lift capability to LEO include:

Unproven HLLVs[edit]

The following HLLVs have not yet flown with a payload to LEO that would classify them as an HLLV:

  1. ^ Partially reusable configuration is classified as a medium-lift launch vehicle since payload to LEO is under 20,000 kg

Former HLLVs[edit]

The following HLLVs were operational:

In development[edit]

Four HLLVs are currently being developed:

  1. ^ Payload to LEO presumed to be similar to Ariane 5 ES or ECA
  2. ^ A fully expendable configuration is classified as a super heavy-lift launch vehicle since payload to LEO is over 50,000 kg
  3. ^ If the upper part of this estimated payload range (>50,000 kg to LEO) is more accurate, then classification is as a super heavy-lift launch vehicle

Earlier concepts[edit]

  • (NASA's Ares I was in the planning stages when canceled in 2010)[24] Payload to LEO: 25,400 kg (56,000 lb)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NASA Space Technology Roadmaps - Launch Propulsion Systems, p.11: "Small: 0-2t payloads, Medium: 2-20t payloads, Heavy: 20-50t payloads, Super Heavy: >50t payloads"
  2. ^ NASA, Aug. 27, 2014, What Is a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle?
  3. ^ "Ariane 5 Users Manual, Issue 4, P. 39 (ISS orbit)" (PDF). Arianespace. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  4. ^ Delta IV Launch Services User’s Guide, June 2013
  5. ^ Spaceflight101, Angara-a5
  6. ^ "Russia made its first test launch "Angara-A5"". RIA Novosti. December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ Capabilities & Services (2016)
  8. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (2016-06-15). "Iridium's SpaceX launch slowed by Vandenberg bottleneck". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2017-01-16. Each Iridium Next satellite will weigh 860 kilograms at launch, for a total satellite payload mass of 8,600 kilograms, plus the 1,000-kilogram dispenser 
  9. ^ Werner, Debra (2017-01-14). "Falcon 9 returns to flight with successful Iridium launch". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2017-01-16. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from here Jan. 14 at 12:54 p.m. Eastern and successfully delivered ten Iridium Communications satellites into polar orbit one hour and 14 minutes later 
  10. ^ http://spaceflight101.com/expendable-falcon-9-successfully-lifts-echostar-23/
  11. ^ Space launch report, CZ-5-7 Data Sheet
  12. ^ http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/sj-17.htm
  13. ^ "Proton Launch System Mission Planner's Guide, LKEB-9812-1990" (PDF). International Launch Services. pp. 2–2. Archived from the original on 2007-10-27. Retrieved 2007-11-12. LEO i = 51.6°, H = 200 km circular ... GTO (1800 m/s from GSO) i = 31.0°, Hp = 2100 km, Ha = 35,786 km 
  14. ^ http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/viasat-1.htm
  15. ^ Entering the Race to the Moon, Saturn IB Established Its Place in Space.
  16. ^ astronautix.com, Titan IV
  17. ^ astronautix.com, Space Shuttle
  18. ^ http://www.khrunichev.ru/main.php?id=54
  19. ^ http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/vulcan.html
  20. ^ Space Flight Now, ULA unveils its future with the Vulcan rocket family, April 13, 2015, by Justin Ray
  21. ^ "Ariane 6 design finalized, set for 2020 launch". Space Daily. 28 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  22. ^ https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/726559990480150528
  23. ^ Berger, Eric (13 September 2016). "Falcon Heavy? New Glenn? NASA chief says he's not a "big fan"". Ars Technica. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  24. ^ "Constellation Is Dead, But Pieces Live On". Aviation Week, October 26, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mallove, Eugene F. and Matloff, Gregory L. The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer's Guide to Interstellar Travel, Wiley. ISBN 0-471-61912-4.