Encyclopedia Astronautica
RITA C



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RITA C vs HTOHL
Credit: NASA
American nuclear-powered orbital launch vehicle. Nuclear single-stage-to-orbit booster.

Max Hunter and a team of engineers at Douglas proposed this nuclear single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle in February 1961. The low weight loading on the heat shield meant that re-entry temperatures would not exceed 1100 deg C, which in turn meant that a reusable re-radiative structure could be used. A Thrust-Augmented Thor booster would launch the subscale the RITV test vehicle. This would be equipped with a 8000 kgf Centaur engine, and prove structural concepts, the heat shield design, and reusability for the much larger nuclear-powered production version.

The RITA-A (Nexus) launch vehicle would be equipped with a 91,000 kgf nuclear engine with a specific impulse of 850 seconds. It could take 7300 kg to low earth orbit. Use of a Saturn S-IB first stage would allow it to take 38,200 kg to low earth orbit or 13,600 kg to lunar orbit. First test flight would come as early as 1965.

The RITA-B follow-on vehicle would be equipped with 4 x 200 tonne thrust nuclear engines with a specific impulse of 950 seconds. The RITA-B would perform a manned Mars mission, with departure in late 1967. A single RITA-B would be refuelled in low earth orbit by multiple launches of other RITA-B's. It would then depart for a direct flight to the Martian surface and return. The vehicle could use body lift to produce an L/D ratio of 0.7 for aerobraking to the Martian surface and on return to earth. With a total delta-V capability of 20.7 km/sec, RITA-B was capable of making the flight to Mars in 225 days.

RITA-C would be a shuttle version of the design, for transporting one million pounds of payload to low earth orbit.

LEO Payload: 454,500 kg (1,002,000 lb) to a 325 km orbit.

Stage Data - RITA C

  • Stage 1. 1 x RITA C. Gross Mass: 4,399,000 kg (9,698,000 lb). Empty Mass: 880,000 kg (1,940,000 lb). Thrust (vac): 96,507.000 kN (21,695,636 lbf). Isp: 810 sec. Burn time: 285 sec. Isp(sl): 500 sec. Diameter: 21.30 m (69.80 ft). Span: 57.90 m (189.90 ft). Length: 50.30 m (165.00 ft). Propellants: Nuclear/LH2. No Engines: 4. Engine: NERVA/Lox Mixed Cycle. Status: Study 1963. Comments: Same engine chamber used to burn liquid oxygen and hydrogen for boost phase, switching to pure nuclear thermal engine for high-performance final acceleration.

Status: Study 1963.
Gross mass: 4,399,000 kg (9,698,000 lb).
Payload: 454,500 kg (1,002,000 lb).
Height: 60.00 m (196.00 ft).
Diameter: 21.30 m (69.80 ft).
Thrust: 59,572.37 kN (13,392,402 lbf).
Apogee: 325 km (201 mi).

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Engines
See also
Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Douglas American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Boeing Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, CA, USA. More...

Bibliography
  • Jenkins, Dennis R,, Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System : The First 100 Missions, Third edition, Voyageur Press, 2001.
  • Bono, Philip, "Design Objectives for Tomorow's Big Boosters", Advanced in the Astronautical Sciences, 1963.

Associated Stages
  • RITA C Nuclear/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 4,399,000/880,000 kg. Thrust 96,507.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 810 seconds. Same engine chamber used to burn liquid oxygen and hydrogen for boost phase, switching to pure nuclear thermal engine for high-performance final acceleration. More...

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