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Sci.Space FAQ: Launcher Section

The following is the Orbital and Planetary Launch Services section of the Sci.Space.* FAQ. It has had data added to it gathered by Artemis Project volunteers.

See also a comparison table of current launchers, and the rest of the "Survey of Available Launchers" section of the Artemis Data Book.

Available with the kind permission of Josh Hopkins.


                       SECTION 1:  INTRODUCTION
Last update: October 31, 1995
(Artemis Project Update: April 16, 1996)

The Orbital and Planetary Launch Services FAQ is intended to provide
basic performance data and background information for all existing or
near future space launch vehicles.  The document was compiled and is
maintained by Josh Hopkins (  While other documents
provide much more detailed information (see the reference list), I have
been able to find no public document which covers as many launch
vehicles or is updated as frequently.  Therefore I hope this reference
fills a useful niche.  This FAQ entry may be copied and distributed, but may
not be modified without the author's permission.  Requests to modify
this FAQ, questions, feedback, data, good jokes, or offers of employment
are welcome and should be directed to the author at the e-mail address above.

All data in this document were collected from public sources.
The following references were significant, and are recommended for further

"International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems" by Steven J.
   Isakowitz, 1991 edition.  Published by AIAA.
   (Note that a new edition is in press)

"Transportation Systems Data Book"  NASA Marshall SFC.  Revision A 1995.

"Small Launchers in the Future, a Global Overview of Their Features and
    Prospects."  W.G. Nauman, ESA, presented at the 1994 IAF conference.

"1991-1992 Europe and Asia in Space," compiled by Nicholas Johnson and
   David Rodvold for USAF Phillips Lab.

User's guides and other documentation provided by the manufacturers were
also utilized frequently.

As an additional source of information, NASA maintains a web page at [down for maintainence as of June 98]
which includes some information about expendable launch vehicles used 
by NASA.  While the site doesn't contain much technical information, it
does have pictures of American launch vehicles, and can provide a good
introduction for readers unfamiliar with rockets.

Readers interested in planetary launch capabilities may wish to read

"Capabilities, Costs, and Constraints of Space Transportation for Planetary
Missions," by Karen Poniatowski and Michael Osmolovsky of NASA HQ's Launch
Vehicle Office.

This paper, along with papers on planetary capabilities of the Delta,
Titan II and M-V were presented at the 1994 IAA International Conference
on Low-Cost Planetary Missions, and are archived in Acta Astronautica,
Vol 35, 1995.


*   Vehicle types which had not yet flown as of the latest update are
    marked with asterisks.

*   Unless otherwise specified LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and polar orbit payload
    data are for a 100 nm orbit.  LEO performance is generally given for the
    lowest inclination achievable from the vehicle's main launch site.
    In some cases, sources provide performance data for non-standard orbits
    without explicitly saying so.  This can introduce some errors into the
    data for less common vehicles.

*   GTO stands for Geostationary Transfer Orbit, and should not be confused
    with GEO, Geostationary Earth Orbit.  The impulse from GTO to GEO is
    generally performed by the satellite or an attached apogee kick motor,
    so launch vehicles specify only GTO capability.

*   Price and performance data may vary.  Launch prices depend on the
    spacecraft, currency exchange rates, and market fluctuation.  Payload
    depends on fairing and adapter selection.  This data should be accurate
    enough to make comparisons and conduct preliminary analysis.  Potential
    users requiring precise data should contact the manufacturers.

*   Reliability data is current to at least December 1994 for almost all
    vehicle families.  However, it is difficult to find comprehensive data
    for some Russian or Chinese systems since they were often secret, and
    data on the more obscure foreign launch systems doesn't get published
    very frequently.  When data is available, sources sometimes disagree.
    Therefore, reliability data for a few launchers may be out of date or
Current U.S. Launch Vehicles Data
Current World Launch Vehicles Data
Future Launch Vehicles Data

Survey of Existing Launchers

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