Oct 302013

Artwork of a three-stage rocket designed by Krafft Ehricke around 1953. 126 feet tall, it would be capable of orbiting 11,000 pounds of payload into a 600 mile circular orbit. Liftoff weight would be 1.3 million pounds.

The first stage, here being shown dropped, would be parachute recovered. the second stage would be expended; the third stage would be used to built up a space station. If you can’t immediately tell where stage 2 ends and stage 3 begins, it’s because stage 3 is the central cylinder, with stage 2 being wrapped around it. This sort of staging arrangement was considered fairly often in the days before they actually had to build these things.

It would be able to land 3,000 pounds on the moon or shoot 5,000 pound probes past Mars or Venus.


 Posted by at 1:49 pm
  • Chris Jones

    I’m trying to think of any launcher built with this kind of wraparound stage, and I can’t come up with one. The closest I can come up with are all of the Soviet/Russian R-7 derivatives (including Soyuz, still flying today) and the Juno 1&2 launchers, whose 2nd stage was wrapped around the 3rd stage. In both cases, the lower (numbered) stage consists of a number of independent engines (4 in the case of the R-7 family, 11 in the case of the Junos) wrapped around or strapped to the upper stage.

    I think the Junos are the only case in which the upper stage could be said to be totally inside the lower one.

    • publiusr

      Think meteor bumper.
      The only advantage I can think of would be space station construction.
      You keep the nested 3rd stage–or use it as a pure oxygen tank for the second stage to orbit module.
      This way the inner stage is a wet stage station module, and the wrap-around stage is a meteor bumper that you can fill with foam for insulation. AM (3D Printing) might ease the ability to return to these designs–but it would work best without a payload–the tubes themselves being the station building payloads.

  • David Winfrey

    So…the 2nd successful launcher, and that of the most humans to leave Earth. Is a “core upper stage” problematical? It seems both “historic” and highly successful.

    • Anonymous

      Uhhh… no. The Soyuz launcher is fundamentally different here… the boosters peel away to the sides as separate discrete units (as done with pretty much all strap-on booster units), rather than shooting the upper stage forward out some sort of torpedo tube. This early concept called for toroidal propellant tanks wrapped around an upper stage; this is entirely unlike multiple separate tanks alongside an upper or core stage.

      There are any nomber of good reasons why this sort of design is not used. With an upper stage buried within a lower stage, you’d have a hell of a time accessing it. The wrap-around tanks are *far* from optimal… pressurize them, and they’d have to be quite heavy to prevent some substantial distortion. When it comes time to stage, sliding a long, thin (thus relatively heavy, compared to a roughly spherical stage) stage out of a tube can easily lead to trouble; remember the early SpaceX Falcon that didn’t work right because when the second stage slid out of the interstage – a lesser task than sliding out of an entire lower stage – the exhaust nozzle banged against the interstage and suffered damage.

      • Chris Jones

        I agree that this design has problems. The “fire in the hole” designs I can think of (many Soviet/Russian designs, US Titan) have ways for the exhaust to get out immediately below and to the side of the upper stage. Firing down a long tube seems to be asking for the lower stage to disintegrate, which lead to unpredictable debris impacts on the firing upper stage. All in all, I don’t see the benefits that would outweigh the disadvantages.