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 Proton, 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)[22] 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. ^ 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 
  9. ^ Space launch report, CZ-5-7 Data Sheet
  10. ^ http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/sj-17.htm
  11. ^ "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 
  12. ^ http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/viasat-1.htm
  13. ^ Entering the Race to the Moon, Saturn IB Established Its Place in Space.
  14. ^ astronautix.com, Titan IV
  15. ^ astronautix.com, Space Shuttle
  16. ^ http://www.khrunichev.ru/main.php?id=54
  17. ^ http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/vulcan.html
  18. ^ Space Flight Now, ULA unveils its future with the Vulcan rocket family, April 13, 2015, by Justin Ray
  19. ^ "Ariane 6 design finalized, set for 2020 launch". Space Daily. 28 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  20. ^ https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/726559990480150528
  21. ^ Berger, Eric (13 September 2016). "Falcon Heavy? New Glenn? NASA chief says he's not a "big fan"". Ars Technica. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  22. ^ "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.