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Saturn V, with an Apollo program payload of a Command Module, Service Module, and Lunar Module. The three had a total mass of 45 t (99,000 lb). When the third stage and Earth-orbit departure fuel was included, Saturn V actually placed 140 t (310,000 lb) into low Earth orbit. The final launch of Saturn V placed a 77,111 kg (170,001 lb) payload into LEO.
Energia launched two payloads, before the program was cancelled: the Polyus weapons platform at approximately 80 t (180,000 lb) and Buran orbiter, only one of which reached orbit. The system was designed to launch up to 105 t (231,000 lb) to low Earth orbit. Polyus failed to enter orbit due to a software error on the kick-stage.
The Space Shuttle and Buran differed from traditional rockets in that both launched what was essentially a reusable, manned stage that carried cargo internally.
Falcon Heavy is rated to launch 63.8 t (141,000 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO) in a fully expendable configuration. In a partially reusable configuration in which its two boosters are recovered, it can launch an estimated 57 t (126,000 lb) to LEO.[b] Its first launch occurred on 6 February 2018, but it has not yet launched a heavy or super-heavy payload.
^A Includes mass of Apollo Command/Service Modules, Apollo Lunar Module, Spacecraft/LM Adapter, Saturn V Instrument Unit, S-IVB stage, and propellant for translunar injection; payload mass to LEO is about 122.4 t (270,000 lb) ^B Includes mass of orbiter and payload during STS-93; deployable payload is 27.5 t (61,000 lb) ^C Required upper stage or payload to perform final orbital insertion ^D No stages recovered, fairing recovery possible ^E Booster cores recovered, center core expended, fairing recovery possible ^F As of 2018[update], it has not yet flown in this configuration; only flown in its most reusable configuration with all three cores making landing attempts. ^G Does not include dry mass of spaceship
The Space Launch System (SLS) is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle currently under development in the U.S. by NASA. The Block 1 configuration is currently targeted for launch in June 2020, with other configurations of increasingly higher lift capacities from 2023 to 2029. Block 1 will be capable of launching a minimum of 70 t (150,000 lb) to low-Earth orbit, and approximately 26 t (57,000 lb) to a trans-lunar injection point.
The 140 t (310,000 lb) to LEO capable Long March 9 has been proposed by China. It has a targeted capacity of 50 t (110,000 lb) to lunar transfer orbit and first flight by 2030.
In August 2016, Russia's RSC Energia announced plans to develop a super heavy-lift launch vehicle using existing components instead of pushing the less-powerful Angara A5V project. This would allow Russia to launch missions towards establishing a permanent Moon base with simpler logistics, launching just one or two 80-to-160-tonne super-heavy rockets instead of four 40-tonne Angara A5Vs implying quick-sequence launches and multiple in-orbit rendezvous. In February 2018, the (space rocket complex of the super-heavy class) design was updated to lift at least 90 tonnes to LEO and 20 tonnes to lunar polar orbit, and to be launched from Vostochny Cosmodrome.
Comparison of Saturn V, Sea Dragon and Interplanetary Transport System
Comparison of Space Shuttle, Ares I, Saturn V and Ares V
Numerous super-heavy lift vehicles have been proposed and received various levels of development prior to their cancellation.
As part of the Soviet Lunar Project four N1 rockets with a payload capacity of 95 t (209,000 lb), were launched but all failed shortly after lift-off (1969-1972). The program was suspended in May 1974 and formally cancelled in March 1976.
The U.S. Ares V for the Constellation program was intended to reuse many elements of the Space Shuttle program, both on the ground and flight hardware, to save costs. The Ares V was designed to carry 188 t (414,000 lb) and was cancelled in 2010, though much of the work has been carried forward into the SLS program.
A 1962 design proposal, Sea Dragon, called for an enormous 150 m (490 ft) tall, sea-launched rocket capable of lifting 550 t (1,210,000 lb) to low Earth orbit. While the design was validated by TRW, the project never moved forward due to the closing of NASA's Future Projects Branch.
SpaceX's first publicly released design of its Mars transportation infrastructure was the ITS launch vehicle unveiled in 2016. The payload capability was to be 550 t (1,210,000 lb) in an expendable configuration (equal to the Sea Dragon) or 300 t (660,000 lb) in a reusable configuration. In 2017, it was succeeded by BFR.
^"Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation"(PDF). Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee. NASA. October 2009. p. 64-66. ...the U.S. human spaceflight program will require a heavy-lift launcher ... in the range of 25 to 40 mt ... this strongly favors a minimum heavy-lift capacity of roughly 50 mt....
^ ab"Russia's A5V moon mission rocket may be replaced with new super-heavy-lift vehicle". RT.com. 22 August 2016. Energia and Roscosmos are "working on a super heavy-lift launch vehicle (SHLLV) that would use an engine that we already have, the RD-171," Vladimir Solntsev told Izvestia newspaper. [...] The proposed new SHLLV would initially have a LEO lift of 80 tonnes with a potential to increase the figure to 120 tonnes or even 160 tonnes, according to Solntsev.