All Hail the Sea Dragon this is the Biggest Rocket ever Designed. In the early 1960’s, The Biggest Rocket ever came into existence.That one rocket, which is still the Tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built, This one rocket was the Sea Dragon, a super heavy lift rocket that would have been 10 times more powerful with 80 Million lb’s of thrust compared to the Saturn’s 7.8 million and that was from just one massive engine.
It was designed to lift a payload of 1,100,000 lbs into orbit, compared to the 310,000 lbs of the Saturn V. This meant it could have lifted an entire space station into Low Earth Orbit in one mission.
Brains Behind the Sea Dragon
The Sea Dragon was a 1962 conceptualized design study for a two-stage sea-launched orbital super heavy-lift launch vehicle. The project was led by Robert Truax while working at Aerojet, one of a number of designs he created that were to be launched by floating the rocket in the ocean.
Although there was some interest at both NASA and Todd Shipyards, the project was not implemented. At the massive dimensions of 150 m (490 ft) long and 23 m (75 ft) in diameter, Sea Dragon would have been the largest rocket ever built, it still is the by far the largest rocket ever fully conceived.
How was it Designed?
The first stage was to be powered by a single enormous 80,000,000 lbf (360 MN; 36,000,000 kgf) thrust engine burning RP-1 and LOX (liquid oxygen). The fuels were pushed into the engine by liquid nitrogen, which provided a pressure of 32 atm (3,200 kPa; 470 psi) for the RP-1 and 17 atm (1,700 kPa; 250 psi) for the LOX, providing a total pressure in the engine of 20 atm (2,000 kPa; 290 psi) at takeoff.
As the vehicle climbed the pressures dropped off, eventually burning out after 81 seconds. By this point the vehicle was 25 miles (40 km) up and 20 mi (32 km) downrange, traveling at a speed of 4,000 mph (6,400 km/h; 1.8 km/s). The normal mission profile expended the stage in a high-speed splashdown some 180 miles (290 km) downrange. Plans for stage recovery were studied as well.
The second stage was also equipped with a single very large engine, in this case a 6,000,000 kgf (59 MN; 13,000,000 lbf) thrust engine burning liquid hydrogen and LOX. Although also pressure-fed, at a constant lower pressure of 7 atm (710 kPa; 100 psi) throughout the entire 260 second burn, at which point it was 142 mi (229 km) up and 584 mi (940 km) downrange.
To improve performance, the engine featured an expanding engine bell, changing from 7:1 to 27:1 expansion as it climbed. The overall height of the rocket was shortened somewhat by making the “nose” of the first stage pointed, lying inside the second stage engine bell.
Tell Me About the Launch?
A typical launch sequence would start with the rocket being refurbished and mated to its cargo and ballast tanks on shore. The RP-1 and nitrogen would also be loaded at this point. The rocket would then be towed to a launch site, where the LOX and LH2 would be generated on-site using electrolysis;
Truax suggested using a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as a power supply during this phase. The ballast tanks, which also served as a cap and protection for the first stage engine bell, would then be filled with water, raising the rocket to vertical. Last minute checks could then be carried out, and the rocket launched.
What About its Payload?
The rocket would have been able to carry a payload of up to 550 tonnes (540 long tons; 610 short tons) or 550,000 kg (1,210,000 lb) into low Earth orbit. Payload costs were estimated to be between $59 to $600 per kg.This meant it could have lifted an entire space station into Low Earth Orbit in one mission.
What Happened to Sea Dragon?
TRW (Space Technology Laboratories, Inc.) conducted a program review and validated the design and its expected costs,apparently a surprise to NASA.TRW Inc. was an American corporation involved in a variety of businesses, mainly aerospace, automotive, and credit reporting.However after the review, the budget pressures led to the closing of the Future Projects Branch, ending work on the super-heavy launchers they had proposed for a manned mission to Mars.
This is the sad news of what would have been the massive hail to the space industry, but the most important point is that the sea dragon holds the record of being the largest rocket ever fully conceived.