Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: Gary Hudson
American SSTO VTOVL orbital launch vehicle. George Detko of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center produced designs for SSTO vehicles as early as 1960. The expendable vehicle had a gross listoff mass of only 22 tonnes, and could deliver a two-person crew to orbit.

Alternatively it could be used to deliver as a rapid response transport to deliver critical goods anywhere on earth within 30 minutes. Detko continued to refine the design, proposing a reusable version in 1972. NASA managers remained indifferent to Detko's proposals, as was their attitude to all SSTO concepts. Detko's design was refined by Gary Hudson and Tom A Brosz and renamed the 'Aerospike Test Vehicle'. This was the precursor of Hudson's smaller Phoenix designs, notably the Phoenix L (light) and Phoenix L-Prime.

LEO Payload: 1,000 kg (2,200 lb).

Status: Design 1972.
Gross mass: 22,000 kg (48,000 lb).
Payload: 1,000 kg (2,200 lb).

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Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Aerospike Test Vehicle American manned spacecraft. George Detko of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center produced a design for a minimum SSTO VTOVL vehicle in 1972. The vehicle had a gross liftoff mass of only 22 metric tons, and could deliver a two-person crew to orbit. More...
  • ATV European logistics spacecraft and space tug. The Automated Transfer Vehicle was first proposed in the mid-1980s as a way to transport unmanned cargo to a Space Station. Operational in that role, first launch 2008.03.09. Studies for a manned version with a re-entry capsule conducted, but no funding for development. More...

See also
  • SSTO Category of launch vehicles. Single Stage To Orbit. More...
  • VTOVL The concept of a reusable single-stage-to-orbit Vertical Take-Off Vertical Landing (VTOVL) launch vehicle that would reenter and return to its launch site for turnaround and relaunch was first proposed by Philip Bono in the 1960's. The appealing simplicity of the concept has been offset by the technological risk in developing it. The problem with any single-stage-to-orbit concept is that if the empty weight of the final vehicle has been underestimated it will not be able to deliver any payload to orbit, or even reach orbit. Since weight growth of up to 20% is not unknown in aerospace projects, this is a very real threat which has made both NASA and private investors reluctant to invest the billions of dollars it would take to develop a full-scale flight vehicle. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Von Braun American manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Von Braun, USA. More...

  • Hudson, Gary C, History of the Phoenix VTOL SSTO and Recent Developments in Single-Stage Launch Systems, AAS 91-643, included in Proceedings of 5th ISCOPS, AAS Vol. 77, pp 329-351, November 1991.

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