Jupiter (rocket family)

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Commonality DIRECT.jpg
The Jupiter common core stage is based heavily on Space Shuttle components
FunctionManned launch vehicle
Country of originUnited States
Height70.9–92.3 m (233–303 ft)
Diameter8.41 m (27.6 ft)
Mass2,061,689–2,177,650 kg (4,545,246–4,800,896 lb)
Stages1 or 2
Payload to LEO (185 km x 51.6°)60,282 kg (132,899 lb) (Jupiter-130)
Payload to LEO (241 km x 29°)91,670 kg (202,100 lb) (Jupiter-246)
Associated rockets
ComparableNational Launch System
Launch history
Launch sitesLC-39B, Kennedy Space Center
Notable payloadsOrion Crew Exploration Vehicle
Altair Lunar Surface Access Module
Boosters – Shuttle RSRM
No. boosters2
Engines1 solid
Thrust12,868–13,977 kN (2,893,000–3,142,000 lbf) (sea level - vacuum)
Total thrust25,737–27,955 kN (5,786,000–6,285,000 lbf) (sea level - vacuum)
Specific impulse237.0 - 269.1 sec (sea level - vacuum)
Burn time123.8 sec
First stage (Jupiter-130) – Common core stage
Diameter8.41 m (27.6 ft)
Engines3 SSME-Block-II
Thrust5,235–6,550 kN (1,177,000–1,472,000 lbf) (sea level - vacuum; three engines combined)
Specific impulse361.4 - 452.2 sec (sea level - vacuum)
Burn time524.5 sec
First stage (Jupiter-246) – Common core stage
Diameter8.41 m (27.6 ft)
Engines4 SSME-Block-II
Thrust6,981–8,734 kN (1,569,000–1,963,000 lbf) (sea level - vacuum)
Specific impulse361.4 (SL)
452.2 sec (sea level - vacuum)
Burn time384.1 sec
Second stage (Jupiter-246) – Jupiter Upper Stage
Diameter8.41 m (27.6 ft)
Engines6 RL10B-2
Thrust661 kN (149,000 lbf) (vacuum)
Specific impulse459 sec (vacuum)
Burn time609.9 sec

The Jupiter family of Super heavy-lift launch vehicles was part of the proposed DIRECT Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle architecture. It was intended to be the alternative to the Ares I and Ares V rockets which were under development for the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Project Constellation.

Some of the major benefits of re-using as much hardware and facilities from the Space Shuttle program as possible to minimize costs, take advantage of the experience with existing hardware and preserve the workforce after the Space Shuttle's retirement.

DIRECT proposal[edit]

Some envisioned Jupiter configurations, including crew and cargo variants

Jupiter was designed to be a high-commonality family of rockets, adapted closely from existing Space Shuttle systems. Each Jupiter launch vehicle would use a "common core stage" consisting of a tank structure based closely on the existing Space Shuttle External Tank with a pair of standard four-segment Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) mounted at the sides as on the Space Shuttle. Up to four Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) from the Space Shuttle Orbiter would be attached to the bottom of the tank and would be deorbited to burn up in Earth atmosphere along with the expended tank. For heavier payloads a proposed Jupiter Upper Stage (JUS) would be added atop the tank structure. For extra-planetary expeditions, the JUS would serve in a role similar to the Earth Departure Stage planned for Ares V. DIRECT have purposefully specified existing components for their launch vehicles, but contend that they could incorporate improvements such as the more powerful five-segment SRB or the J-2X upper stage engine, had the J-2X development not ended partly due to the cancelation of the Constellation program.

Crews would be carried atop the launch vehicle in NASA's planned Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, itself topped by the planned Launch Abort System. Cargo, whether carried under Orion or alone on a cargo-only launch would be enclosed by a payload fairing.


Many configurations of Jupiter are possible, but the DIRECT version 3.0 proposal, released in May 2009, recommends two: the Jupiter-130 and Jupiter-246, with claimed lift capacities exceeding 60 and 90 tonnes (t), respectively, to low Earth orbit.[1].


Expanded diagram of the DIRECT v3.0 Jupiter-130 configuration

DIRECT proposes that its smaller Jupiter-130 be the first configuration developed, with the goal of becoming operational within four years of the start of the development program. The Jupiter-130 would consist of the Jupiter common core stage alone, fitted with one SSME removed and a payload fairing on top. "130" stands for one cryogenic core stage, three main engines, and zero upper-stage engines. Initial launches would rotate crews and bring cargo to the International Space Station, a function currently carried out by Soyuz rockets.

DIRECT calculations indicate that the Jupiter-130 should be able to deliver between over 60 t and over 70 t of cargo or cargo and crew to a variety of circular and elliptical inclined low Earth orbits.[1] When the mass of the proposed Orion spacecraft and crew is subtracted (18 - 22 t depending on the mission[2]), the remainder compares favorably with the approximately 25 t cargo capacity of the Space Shuttle, and the lack of capacity of Ares I besides the Orion spacecraft.


The Jupiter-246 would use four Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) in the common core stage and would include a planned upper stage, informally called the Jupiter Upper Stage (JUS). The Jupiter-246 would use six RL10B-2 engines on the upper stage. "246" stands for two cryogenic stages, four main engines, and six upper stage engines. The primary role for the Jupiter-246 would be to launch heavier cargo as well as crew and cargo for lunar missions.

Jupiter Upper Stage[edit]

Because the Jupiter-246 uses four SSMEs on a core stage originally sized for three engines, the core stage propellant is depleted before it reaches low Earth orbit, and a large capacity upper stage is used to deliver payload into orbit. Launched with a partial upper stage propellant load of 75 t, a Jupiter-246 could deliver over 84 t of crew and cargo to a circular 241 km (130 nmi), 29° inclined orbit.[3] Launched with no crew or payload, the same 75 t of propellant could deliver an additional 100 t of propellant to the same orbit.[4] For that reason, the total JUS capacity is approximately 175 t. For lunar missions where the JUS is to serve as the Earth departure stage, a full load of 175 t of propellant would be launched and 75 t would be consumed in achieving low Earth orbit, leaving 100 t available for the Earth departure burn.

In line with the DIRECT v3.0 theme of using as much existing hardware as possible, DIRECT proposes the veteran RL10 engine family to power the JUS. However, DIRECT anticipated similar performance for its upper stage from the J-2X engine, previously under development for the Ares I and Ares V upper stages.

Design Considerations[edit]

Existing Engine Use[edit]

One of the primary goals of the DIRECT proposal is to develop a new heavy lift rocket in a shorter time frame. When the DIRECT project began in 2006, the Space Shuttle was expected to be operational for another four years or so. DIRECT had always planned to use the four-segment Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) unchanged from the Shuttle and to make use of work already underway for the Constellation Project on the RS-68 main engine and J-2X upper stage engine.

By 2009, however, there were concerns that the ablatively-cooled RS-68 engine could not survive the intense heat from the nearby SRBs. With this worry and with Shuttle retirement imminent, the DIRECT v3.0 proposal called for using the more expensive regeneratively-cooled, reusable Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) in a disposable role. Currently the three SSMEs return to earth with the Shuttle orbiter. For the proposed Jupiter family, three or four SSMEs attached to the bottom of the core tank structure would be discarded in Earth's atmosphere along with the tank. For missions beyond lower Earth orbit, the Jupiter Upper Stage would use six Pratt and Whitney RL10B-2s. The RL10 family has a long flight history.

Before it can be launched, NASA's proposed Ares I rocket would require both a new, modified five-segment version of the Space Shuttle SRB and the J-2X upper stage engine, a modification of the J-2 engine used on the Saturn V. The proposed Jupiter family can launch with currently available engines but could still take advantage of a more powerful SRB and J-2X upper stage engine should they become available.

Crew Safety[edit]

DIRECT envisions continued development and operation of NASA's Orion crewed spacecraft, including its Launch Abort System (LAS). In the event of an emergency, the LAS would pull the crew capsule to safety as it would on NASA's Ares I. The DIRECT Team asserts, however, that the Jupiter-130's greater lift capacity - 64 tonnes, versus 25 tonnes for Ares I - would enable the Orion to be designed with more crew safety capability than currently planned, at least from a launch-capacity standpoint.

For crewed flights to the International Space Station (ISS), DIRECT says the added lift capacity of the Jupiter would allow these missions to carry significant cargo in a separate module mounted below the Orion spacecraft. In this plan, once orbit was reached, the Orion would dock with this module and ferry it to the ISS. By comparison, Ares I would be capable of bringing only the Orion spacecraft to the ISS. DIRECT asserts that flying Orion and a separate payload module on a Jupiter would satisfy the safety concerns raised about flying crew separately from cargo following the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, since the Orion capsule would still be able to separate from the launch vehicle and any cargo in the event of a launch abort.

Jupiter vs. Ares I[edit]

The DIRECT Team cites a number of particular features that it says would make a Jupiter-130 safer than the Ares I:

The Jupiter design would re-use the proven method of Space Shuttle of attaching the SRBs to the tankage though an internal structural member. DIRECT says this would avoid the inducing of potentially severe vibration in the vehicle, resulting from a "thrust oscillation" effect endemic in large solid rockets. This effect has become a concern for the Ares I design.[5]

As with the Space Shuttle, the liquid main engines of a Jupiter-130 would be ignited on the ground and undergo a rapid checkout before the SRBs are ignited and the vehicle is launched. Start-sequence problems could be detected before committing to the launch, and the only vehicle staging event would be the burnout and separation of the SRBs. By comparison, the Ares I launch consists of the immediate ignition of its single SRB first stage, then requires a staging event and ignition at altitude of its cryogenic second stage. While staging is common launch vehicle practice, it introduces safety, risk and reliability concerns, particularly on crewed flights. (The larger Jupiter-246, with its upper stage, would typically include this risk.)

The DIRECT Team asserts that the Jupiter-130 and -246, with their multiple main engines, would be capable of reaching orbit even in the event of an engine shutdown.

In the Jupiter concept, the crewed Orion spacecraft would be supported by a large aerodynamic fairing. This arrangement would place the Orion at least 10 m (33 ft) further away from propellant-filled stages than it would be on an Ares I. DIRECT asserts this would provide a valuable additional "buffer space" between an exploding vehicle and the crew.

The envisioned lift capacity of the Jupiter-130 could allow protective hardware to be mounted inside the payload fairing, below the Orion spacecraft. DIRECT has postulated such options as mounting a lightweight shield made from Boron carbide and Kevlar between the spacecraft and the stages below to help protect the crew from shrapnel and other debris from a vehicle explosion.

Jupiter vs. Ares V[edit]

The current baseline configuration of the Ares V heavy-lift cargo rocket employs six RS-68B main engines and two "stretched" 5.5segment SRBs. According to NASA, this vehicle design has a Loss of Mission (LOM) risk factor below 1 in 90 and a Loss of Crew (LOC) risk factor below 1 in 850.

The ESAS Report specified that an LOC of 1 in 1,000 (a figure estimated to be at least five times higher than the Space Shuttle today, even accounting for the latest safety upgrades) would be the minimum required to be acceptable for human use for any new systems, using this issue to dismiss vehicles from consideration such as the Atlas V.

The DIRECT Team asserts that, because Ares V will not meet NASA's targets regarding human safety all Ares-based missions will be forced to utilize an Ares I, incurring all of its associated costs for every mission type. However, being considerably smaller and with fewer engines, even the larger Jupiter variant, the now superseded DIRECT v2.0 Jupiter-232, was expected to comfortably exceed these targets with an LOC of 1 in 1,162. DIRECT's advocates say that, if the DIRECT v3.0 vehicles have similar safety margins, the DIRECT system could offer considerable mission flexibility. Lunar missions could be flown with a pair of powerful two-stage Jupiters instead of one single-stage crew vehicle and one two-stage cargo vehicle.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Jupiter Launch Vehicle – Technical Performance Summaries". Archived from the original on 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  2. ^ "NASAfacts - Constellation - Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle" (PDF). National Aeronautics and Space Administration. January 2009. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  3. ^ "Jupiter-246 - Lunar Crew Launch Vehicle Configuration - Vehicle Concept Characteristics - LV 41.4004.10050" (PDF). 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  4. ^ "Jupiter-246 - Lunar EDS Launch Vehicle Configuration - Vehicle Concept Characteristics - LV 41.4004.08001" (PDF). 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  5. ^ Mark Carreau (19 January 2008). "Severe vibration problem plagues moon rocket design". Houston Chronicle.

External links[edit]