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Mon Jul 08 10:44:46 UTC 2019

Space Launch Vehicle Types Based On Companies

In this age of technological advancement and commercialization of the space market, there are numerous government-controlled and privately-owned space companies that are making efforts and developing space launch vehicles related to space research.

Some of these companies and their space launch vehicles are mentioned below:


With headquarters in California, SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is one of the biggest private aerospace manufacturers and space transportation companies in the US. Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, the main goal of the company was to reduce space transportation costs and thus allow humans to colonize Mars.

The current net market value of SpaceX as of May 2019 is around $30 billion, with a whopping $530 million funding from the latest round.

SpaceX has the following main types of launch vehicles:

a.  Falcon 9:

Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket that was designed and manufactured by SpaceX to transfer satellites as well as the Dragon spacecraft into the Earth?s low orbits safely and with reliability. Falcon 9 is the first of its class orbital rocket which is capable of reuse. This space launcher vehicle was designed for the maximum amount of reliability from the ground up.

b.  Falcon Heavy:

Also known as the most powerful operational rocket in the whole world, Falcon Heavy has the ability to lift almost 64 metric tons of payload into the Earth?s low orbit. It is said to be able to lift more than twice the payload of the Delta IV Heavy, which is second in line for being a similar operational vehicle.

c.  BFR:

Short for the Big Falcon Rocket, the BFR is a fully reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft which is privately funded by SpaceX. This space vehicle includes a launch vehicle as well as a spacecraft, along with infrastructure for a rapid launch and relaunch. It can carry more than 100,000 kilograms of payload into the low Earth orbit.


Based in Bangalore, Antrix Corporation Limited, or ACL, is a space company wholly owned by the Government of India. Controlled by the Department of Space, ACL was incorporated as a private company which also served as the marketing head of ISRO. Some of the major goals of ACL is the promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and the transfer of technologies that have been developed by ISRO.

With a current revenue of Rs. 20 billion, Antrix is aiming for doubling the amount and have a larger share in the global space market.

It has the following launch vehicle types:

a.  PSLV, or Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle:

Known as the third generation launch vehicle of India, the PSLV is the first Indian LV that is equipped with liquid stages. It can lift a payload of almost 295 tons. It has had 39 consecutive successful missions till June 2017 and is best known for successfully launching the Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013 to the Moon and Mars respectively.

b.  GSLV, or Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle:

This is a three-stage vehicle which comes under the fourth generation launch vehicle of India. It can carry almost 2 to 2.5 tons of payload into the geostationary transfer orbit of the Earth. Moreover, it can place 5 tons of payload into the low Earth orbits and has achieved four consecutive successes in its missions since January 2014.

3.  China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (China)

Established in July 1999, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, or CASC is the main company that looks after the Chinese space programs. It is owned by the state and has many smaller companies that help it to design, develop and manufacture different launch vehicles, space crafts as well as missile systems and ground equipment.

The company also produces many other products like chemicals, machinery, transportation and communications equipment and so on. It has recorded a capital of almost CN ?400 billion.

The launch vehicle of the company includes the Long March rocket is one of the main launch vehicles by CASC, designed and manufactured in a family of expendable launch systems. It has the ability to carry a payload of 12,000 kilograms into the low Earth orbits.

4.  Arianespace (Europe)

Founded in 1980, Arianespace is a company that is also known for being the world?s first commercial launch service provider. It looks after the marketing as well as operation of the Ariane programme. Arianespace was founded with an assigned mission of guaranteeing Europe an independent access to space. It is a world leader in commercial space transport with a number of different launch vehicles.

Since May 2017, the company has launched more than 550 satellites and has recorded a revenue of more than ? 2 billion with a net income of more than ?5 billion, as of 2017.

The company offers a number of different launch vehicles, mentioned below:

a.  Ariane 5:

This is the world?s answer to heavy lift launchers, which has set a global benchmark for launches made to the geostationary transfer orbits of the Earth. It can carry payloads of almost 10 metric tons to the GTO and over 20 metric tons to the low Earth orbit. Till date, the Ariane 5 has had 91 launches, 77 out of which have been consecutive successes.

b.  Soyuz:

Developed in 2011, this medium lift launcher is the world?s longest operating launch vehicle with reliable 4 stages and an updated digital flight control system. It is not only versatile, but can also deploy constellations. Till date, it has had 16 launches from the Guiana Space Centre and 26 launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with 41 successful space missions.

c.  Vega:

Introduced in 2012, Vega is a new generation launch vehicle with the ability to carry small to medium sized payloads, which is roughly around 1,500 kilograms. It is a vehicle that was developed for the launch of Sun-synchronous Earth observation satellites. To date, Vega has had 9 launches, all pf which have been successful.

5.  Blue Origin (USA)

Founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is a privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company. It is known for developing technologies that focus on the vertical take-off and vertical landings of space vehicles to access the suborbital and orbital space easily.

Blue Origin has the following launch vehicles:

a.  New Shepard:

Named after the first American astronaut to go into space, Alan Shepard, this vehicle is a reusable rocket system which can carry payloads to the sub orbits of the Earth. It is also fully controlled by on-board computers, instead of ground control or human pilots.

b.  Blue Moon:

This is a launch vehicle that can carry a wide range of small, medium as well as large payloads to the Moon. It has the capability to carry and land multiple metric tons of payload on the surface of the Moon.

c.  New Glenn:

Named after astronaut John Glenn, this is a single configuration heavy-lift launch vehicle which can carry payloads not just to the orbit of the Earth, but also beyond it. It has a reusable first stage which is built for 25 missions, along with a high-performance configuration. It can also launch and land in almost 95 percent of weather conditions.


6.  Orbital Sciences Corporation

Orbital Sciences Corporation is an American company which designs, manufactures and launches small to medium class space vehicles and rocket systems for the government, military as well as for commercial use. It is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.

As of 2017, the company has a revenue exceeding $3 billion with a net income of $80 million.

Some of its launch vehicles include:

a.  Minotaur:

Vehicles for low cost access to space for payloads that are sponsored by the government. This vehicle family includes Minotaur I, Minotaur IV, Minotaur V, Minotaur VI and Minotaur-C.

b.  Pegasus:

This is a three-stage launch vehicle that can carry small satellites up to 1,000 pounds into the low orbits of the Earth. It has a unique delta-shaped wing, which helps it to transfer the satellites into the orbit in over 10 minutes. It has had 42 missions to date, 37 of which have been successful. It is followed by Pegasus II.

c.  Antares:

This is a two-stage launch vehicle which can deliver medium sized payloads into space. It is known for using the refurbished engines manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s for the Soviet moon rocket. The vehicle was completely destroyed on October 28, 2014 when its fifth launch failed.

7.  United Launch Vehicle Alliance

United Launch Alliance or ULA is a manufacturer and operator of spacecrafts and rocket vehicles that can orbit the planet. It has developed launch vehicles that can not only carry different sizes of payloads but also other vehicles for space-based activities like research and telecommunications. It also provides launch services to commercial satellites.

ULA has the following launch vehicle types:

a.  Atlas V:

This is an expendable launch system with a Russian built engine using kerosene and liquid oxygen for its first stage and an American built engine using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for its Centaur upper stage.

b.  Delta IV Heavy:

This is an expendable heavy-lift launch vehicle, which is also the world's second highest-capacity rocket in operation.

c.  Delta II:

This is an expendable launch system that is a part of the Delta rocket family and included the Delta 6000 and the other two variants of Delta 7000, namely the light and the heavy. 

d.  Vulcan:

This is a next generation heavy-lift launch vehicle which is currently under the development stages. It is being developed to meet the demands of the United States Air Force's National Security Space Launch (NSSL) competition and launch program.

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