Heavy-lift launch vehicle
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. According to NASA, as of August 2014[update], heavy-lift launch vehicles include the Ariane 5, the Proton, and the Delta IV Heavy.
Heavy lift rated launch vehicles
Currently operational launch vehicles with demonstrated heavy-lift capability to LEO include:
- Ariane 5 ECA & ES 1996 to present - European Space Agency (ESA) Payload to LEO: 21,000 kg (46,000 lb)
- Delta IV Heavy 2004 to present - United Launch Alliance (ULA) World's highest capacity rocket currently in operation. Payload to LEO: 28,790 kg (63,470 lb)
The following HLLVs have not yet flown with a payload to LEO that would classify them as an HLLV:
- Angara A5 2014 to present - Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center Payload to LEO: 24,500 kg (54,000 lb) Heaviest payload flown: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) to GEO
- Falcon 9 FT 2015 to present - SpaceX Payload to LEO: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb) in a non-reusable configuration[a] Heaviest payload flown: 5,271 kg (11,621 lb) to GTO
- Long March 5 (CZ-5) 2016 to present - China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) Payload to LEO: 25,000 kg (55,000 lb) Heaviest payload flown: ~4,000 kg (8,800 lb) to GEO
- Proton-M 2001 to present - Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center Payload to LEO: 21,600 kg (47,600 lb) Heaviest payload flown: 6,740 kg (14,860 lb) to GTO
- Partially reusable configuration is classified as a medium-lift launch vehicle since payload to LEO is under 20,000 kg
The following HLLVs were operational:
- Saturn IB 1966 to 1975 (retired after 9 launches) Chrysler (S-IB), Douglas (S-IVB) Payload to LEO: 21,000 kg (46,000 lb) 
- Titan IV 1989 to 2005 (retired after 39 launches) - Lockheed Martin Payload to LEO: 21,680 kg (47,800 lb) 
- Space Shuttle 1981 to 2011 (retired after 135 launches) United Space Alliance, Thiokol/Alliant Techsystems (SRBs), Lockheed Martin/Martin Marietta (ET), Boeing/Rockwell (orbiter) Payload to LEO: 24,400 kg (53,800 lb) (cargo bay payload only) 
- Proton-K 1967 to 2012 (retired after 311 launches) Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center Payload to LEO: 19,760 kg (43,560 lb) (nominal), 22,776 kg (50,212 lb) (demonstrated with Zvezda) 
Four HLLVs are currently being developed:
- Vulcan - United Launch Alliance Payload to LEO: 36,000 kg (79,000 lb) (estimated) 
- Ariane 6 - European Space Agency Payload to LEO: Unknown[a] 
- Falcon Heavy in a partially reusable configuration[b] - SpaceX Payload to LEO: 32,640 kg (71,960 lb)-38,080 kg (83,950 lb) (estimated)
- New Glenn - Blue Origin Payload to LEO: 35,000 kg (77,000 lb)-70,000 kg (150,000 lb)[c] (estimated) 
- Payload to LEO presumed to be similar to Ariane 5 ES or ECA
- A fully expendable configuration is classified as a super heavy-lift launch vehicle since payload to LEO is over 50,000 kg
- 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
- (NASA's Ares I was in the planning stages when canceled in 2010) Payload to LEO: 25,400 kg (56,000 lb)
- Sounding rocket, suborbital launch vehicle
- Small-lift launch vehicle, capable of lifting up to 2,000 kg to low Earth orbit
- Medium-lift launch vehicle, capable of lifting between 2,000 and 20,000 kg (4,400 to 44,100 lb) of payload into Low Earth orbit
- Super heavy-lift launch vehicle, capable of lifting more than 50,000 kg (110,000 lb) of payload into Low Earth orbit
- Comparison of orbital launch systems
- Comparison of orbital rocket engines
- Comparison of space station cargo vehicles
- Spacecraft propulsion
- 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"
- NASA, Aug. 27, 2014, What Is a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle?
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- Clark, Stephen (2016-02-24). "Falcon 9 rocket to give SES 9 telecom satellite an extra boost". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
SES 9’s launch weight is 11,620 pounds, or about 5,271 kilograms ... heavier than the Falcon 9 rocket’s advertised lift capacity to geosynchronous transfer orbit, an elliptical path around Earth that serves as a drop-off point for communications satellites heading for positions 22,300 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the equator, a popular location for powerful broadcast platforms. Geosynchronous transfer orbits targeted by satellite launchers typically have an apogee, or high point, of at least 22,300 miles and a low point a few hundred miles above Earth. ... SES’s contract with SpaceX called for the rocket to deploy SES 9 into a “sub-synchronous” transfer orbit with an apogee around 16,155 miles (26,000 kilometers) in altitude. Such an orbit would require SES 9 to consume its own fuel to reach a circular 22,300-mile-high perch, a trek that Halliwell said was supposed to last 93 days. The change in the Falcon 9’s launch profile [is planned to] put SES 9 into an initial orbit with an apogee approximately 24,419 miles (39,300 kilometers) above Earth, a low point 180 miles (290 kilometers) up, and a track tilted about 28 degrees to the equator
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LEO i = 51.6°, H = 200 km circular ... GTO (1800 m/s from GSO) i = 31.0°, Hp = 2100 km, Ha = 35,786 km
- Entering the Race to the Moon, Saturn IB Established Its Place in Space.
- astronautix.com, Titan IV
- astronautix.com, Space Shuttle
- Space Flight Now, ULA unveils its future with the Vulcan rocket family, April 13, 2015, by Justin Ray
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- "Constellation Is Dead, But Pieces Live On". Aviation Week, October 26, 2010.
- Mallove, Eugene F. and Matloff, Gregory L. The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer's Guide to Interstellar Travel, Wiley. ISBN 0-471-61912-4.