Friday, December 21, 2007
"Sea Dragon was an immense, sea-launched, two-stage launch vehicle designed by Robert Truax for Aerojet in 1962. It was to be capable of putting 1.2 million pounds (550 tonnes) into low Earth orbit. The concept was to achieve minimum launch costs through lower development and production costs. This meant accepting a larger booster with a lower performance propulsion system and higher stage dead weight then traditional NASA and USAF designs."
This was one of the many great plans for a cheap, giant rocket that could do in several launches what years of shuttle launches could not. This rocket could, among other things, launch a large mars mission in only a few flights, launch a Keck sized (10 meter) telescope into space, or build the ISS in a few flights. The rocket would be very cheap because it would use simple technology to build, and also because of the large size - large rockets are generally more cost efficient.
"Manufacturer: Truax. LEO Payload: 450,000 kg (990,000 lb). to: 185 km Orbit. at: 90.00 degrees. Liftoff Thrust: 350,000.000 kN (78,680,000 lbf). Total Mass: 18,000,000 kg (39,000,000 lb). Core Diameter: 23.00 m (75.00 ft). Total Length: 150.00 m (490.00 ft). Launch Price $: 300 million. in: 1962 price dollars."
*Update: Here is a great new image of this rocket showing you the inner workings to some extent. I personally would suggest using a cluster of solid motors in the lower stage of this rocket. Solids are highly robust (survive a sea journey better I would guess) and are even cheaper than this rocket was designed to be (already an improvement). I would think to add a large (75 Million LBS thrust) cluster of 4 motors on the order of 10 meters DIA each. These motors could be monolithic (formed in one piece), and could be clustered or lengthened to almost arbitrary rocket size. Need to eventually upgrade to 2 million lbs LEO? Add three more solids in the booster stage. I know this sounds like speculation, but I am convinced that the cheapest launchers will all start with solid rocket motors, be very large, and be designed with simplicity in mind.