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 / HLLV, is an orbital launch vehicle capable of lifting between 20,000 to 50,000 kg to low Earth orbit.[1] The current Heavy-Lift Launch vehicles in service are the Ariane 5 in its ES and ECA variants, the Russian Proton-M and the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.[2]

Heavy lift launch vehicles[edit]

Super Heavy lift launch vehicles[edit]

A super-heavy lift vehicle or SHLV / SHLLV is capable of lifting more than 50,000 kg (110,000 lb) of payload into LEO.[1][14]

  • Saturn V Apollo crew of 3, payload of 118,000 kg (260,000 lb) [15]
  • Energia One-time payload unmanned Buran orbiter at 62,000 kg (137,000 lb).[16]

When adding a space shuttle orbiter, crew of 5, at 90,492 kg (199,501 lb) with the space shuttles heaviest cargo bay payload, STS-93, of 22,753 kg (50,162 lb) the total payload was 113,245 kg (249,662 lb) on 23 July 1999.[20][21] All space shuttles, crew of 2 to 11, count as super heavy lift launch vehicles if one is counting the space shuttle orbiter, not just the cargo bay payload. [22]
Four Soviet N-1 rockets lifted off with 95,000 kg (209,000 lb), but all four failed shortly after lift off (1969- 1972).[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ Entering the Race to the Moon, Saturn IB Established Its Place in Space.
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ "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 
  6. ^ astronautix.com, Titan IV
  7. ^ astronautix.com, Space Shuttle
  8. ^ Spaceflight101, Angara-a5
  9. ^ Delta IV Launch Services User’s Guide, June 2013
  10. ^ Space launch report, CZ-5-7 Data Sheet
  11. ^ Space Flight Now, ULA unveils its future with the Vulcan rocket family, April 13, 2015, by Justin Ray
  12. ^ NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, facts space launch system, Building America’s Next Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle
  13. ^ "Constellation Is Dead, But Pieces Live On". Aviation Week, October 26, 2010.
  14. ^ HSF Final Report: Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation, October 2009, Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, p. 64-66: "5.2.1 The Need for Heavy Lift ... require a “super heavy-lift” launch vehicle ... range of 25 to 40 mt, setting a notional lower limit on the size of the super heavy-lift launch vehicle if refueling is available ... this strongly favors a minimum heavy-lift capacity of roughly 50 mt ..."
  15. ^ astronautix.com, Saturn V
  16. ^ Unmanned Space Missions, By Erik Gregersen, page 46, 2010
  17. ^ spacex.com, Falcon-heavy
  18. ^ americaspace.com, AmericaSpace For a nation that explores, First Look: China’s Big New Rockets, By Craig Covault
  19. ^ space.com, NASA's Next Megarocket Could Launch Mission to Europa, by Mike Wall, July 29, 2015
  20. ^ . guinnessworldrecords.com, Heaviest payload launched - shuttle
  21. ^ NASA (22 June 2007). "STS-117 Mission Status Report #30". Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  22. ^ NASA, The Shuttle
  23. ^ russianspaceweb.com, N-1
Comparison of maximum payload to low Earth orbit (LEO) (Left to right). Space Shuttle payload includes 7 crew and cargo. Ares I payload includes 4 crew and inherent craft. Saturn V payload includes 3 crew, inherent craft and cargo. Ares V payload includes only cargo and inherent craft. The Saturn V was capable of lifting approximately 140 metric tons of payload to LEO. The Ares V was being designed to lift 188 metric tons to LEO.
Comparison of Saturn V, Shuttle, Ares I, Ares V, Ares IV, and SLS Block I

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.