The Role of Heavy Lift Vehicles in a Reusable Launch Vehicle Based Infrastructure

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C.M. Hempsell (2003), JBIS, 56, 369-377

Refcode: 2003.56.369
Keywords: Launch systems, heavy lift launcher, reusable launch vehicle

A Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) should be sized to minimise the specific launch costs and this probably means a payload around 10 tonnes and the 4.5 m diameter envelope, both similar to the Space Shuttle capability. This sizing means large payloads, in particular orbital infrastructure systems, if launched on the RLV would have to be carried in many pieces and assembled in orbit. It has been argued that while this approach leads to the lowest launch cost the savings are lost in the extra costs imposed on other factors in the overall acquisition cost. Using a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) with high specific launch costs but able to launch the system in one piece would lead to lower overall acquisition costs. The paper explores the requirements for an HLV designed to support an RLV and proposes a payload of around 40 tonnes and a diameter of 7 meters. It explores three candidate systems Ariane 5 with enlarge payload fairing, an HLV variant of the Space Shuttle and a new reusable system. The most cost effective is the new system but its economic risk and acquisition cost is clearly not sustainable in parallel with an RLV development. However both Ariane 5 and a Shuttle based system could be used as transition launchers for the early stages of RLV operations, with a new HLV system development following when its market is established.


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