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Drew Ex Machina

The Largest Launch Vehicles Through History

19 Feb 2018, 14:05 UTC
The Largest Launch Vehicles Through History
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The launch of the first Falcon Heavy developed and built by aerospace upstart, SpaceX founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk, was accompanied with headlines that it was the most powerful launch vehicle currently flying – and rightfully so. The total thrust of its recoverable first stage and nearly identical pair of boosters (each sporting nine Merlin 1D engines) is rated at 22,819 kilonewtons at liftoff and, in combination with its upper stage, the Falcon Heavy is capable of placing 63,800 kilograms of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). No other launch vehicle currently in production comes close. While the Falcon Heavy is without doubt the current holder of “the largest launch vehicle” title, it is just the latest in a long line of rockets to hold this title over the last six decades of the Space Age.

The R-7 Family
The first rocket to hold the title of “the largest launch vehicle” goes to the 8K71PS which launched the first satellite, Sputnik, on October 4, 1957 (see “Sputnik: The Launch of the Space Age”). Designed and built by OKB-1 (Experimental Design Bureau 1) headed by the legendary Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, this launch vehicle was based on ...

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