NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
High Altitude Launch for a Practical SSTOExisting engineering materials allow the construction of towers to heights of many kilometers. Orbital launch from a high altitude has significant advantages over sea-level launch due to the reduced atmospheric pressure, resulting in lower atmospheric drag on the vehicle and allowing higher rocket engine performance. High-altitude launch sites are particularly advantageous for single-stage to orbit (SSTO) vehicles, where the payload is typically 2% of the initial launch mass. An earlier paper enumerated some of the advantages of high altitude launch of SSTO vehicles. In this paper, we calculate launch trajectories for a candidate SSTO vehicle, and calculate the advantage of launch at launch altitudes 5 to 25 kilometer altitudes above sea level. The performance increase can be directly translated into increased payload capability to orbit, ranging from 5 to 20% increase in the mass to orbit. For a candidate vehicle with an initial payload fraction of 2% of gross lift-off weight, this corresponds to 31% increase in payload (for 5-km launch altitude) to 122% additional payload (for 25-km launch altitude).
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Glenn Research Center
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Landis, Geoffrey A.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Denis, Vincent
(International Space Univ., Inc. Strasbourg, France)
Lyons, Valerie
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 2003
Subject Category
Launch Vehicles And Launch Operations
Meeting Information
Meeting: Conference on Commercial/Civil Next Generation Space Transportation, Space Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF-2003)
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Country: United States
Start Date: February 2, 2003
End Date: February 5, 2003
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
No Preview Available