Encyclopedia Astronautica
RSA-3



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RSA-3
RSA-3 South African space launcher
Credit: © Mark Wade
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RSA-3 Aft View
Rear view of the RSA-3, showing the exhaust vanes and details of its erector-launcher.
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3 Cutaway
Cutaway diagram of RSA-3 space launcher. This differs somewhat from the flight hardware now displayed in South African air museums.
Credit: © Mark Wade
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RSA-3 Side View
The photo shows the RSA-3 in its entirety (side on), and also three combat aircraft which may be used as comparison. These are from left to right, an Angolan Mig-21MF (L=15,76 m); an engineless SAAF Mirage F1CZ(L=15,24m); and a Mirage 111CZ (L=14,77m). To get an idea of how far these a/c are from the RSA-3, check out the photo showing the missile directly from the rear - on it you can see the Mirage 111CZ on the left
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3
Credit: © Mark Wade
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RSA-3 Aft View
Aft view of the RSA-3 showing the jet vanes that provided first stage directional control.
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3 Aft View
Aft view of the RSA-3. Note the small first stage fins.
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RSA-3 Interstage
Close-up of the RSA-3 interstage section.
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3 Interstage
View of RSA-3 forward interstage and payload sections.
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RSA-3 in Pretoria
RSA-3 satellite launcher / long range missile at the A.F. Museum, Pretoria.
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RSA-3 TEL
Detail of the RSA-3 transporter-erector-launcher.
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3 AKM
Close-up showing the spherical Apogee Kick Motor third stage of the RSA-3.
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3 Forward View
Forward view of the RSA-3 at the Air Force Museum, Pretoria.
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3 Forward View
Forward section of the RSA-3; cut-outs reveal the Apogee Kick Motor third stage and the satellite within the payload shroud.
Credit: Steven McQuillan
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RSA-3 Engine Test
Technicians prepare RSA-3 stage in the test stand.
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RSA-3 - base detail
RSA-3 - detail of rocket base, side view
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RSA-3 - stage detail
RSA-3 - close-up of rocket in transporter
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RSA-3 - stage detail
RSA-3 - detail of first stage base and rocket nozzle
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RSA-3 - stage detail
RSA-3 - close-up of rocket in transporter
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RSA-3 - base detail
RSA-3 - detail of rocket base, side view
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RSA-3 - payload
RSA-3 - satellite payload and kick stage
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RSA-3 - launch photo
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RSA-3 - nose detail
RSA-3 - detail of nose cone
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RSA-1 , -2, -3, -4
The RSA-3 satellite launcher began development as an IRBM in the 1980's because of the perceived Soviet threat and isolation of South Africa. It was developed with the assistance of Israel and was believed to be essentially identical to the Israeli Jericho missile/Shavit launch vehicle. The objective of the satellite launcher was to place a small surveillance satellite of 330 kg mass into a 41 degree, 212 x 460 km orbit around the earth. Development continued even after South African renunciation of its nuclear weapons. However the launcher was found not to be viable commercially and so was cancelled in mid-1994.

The RSA-3 was developed by the Houwteq organization at Grabouw, 30 km east of Cape Town. The Overberg Test Range near Bredasdorp, 200 km east of Cape Town, was used for test flights. The engine test facility was at Rooi Els. At the peak of development in 1992 50 - 70 companies in the public and private sector were involved, employing 1300 -1500 people.

As in the Shavit, the first and second stages used the same rocket motor loaded with 9 metric tons of propellant. The first stage used vanes in the exhaust for steering during the first 16 to 20 seconds of flight, after which the fins at the base of the vehicle provided aerodynamic control. The second stage had a higher expansion nozzle and may have been equipped with TVC for steering. Atop the second stage was a guidance - orientation - spin-up bus for the third stage and payload. Total mass of this bus and the payload shroud was 583 kg. After second stage burnout, the upper stage package entered a 148 second ballistic coast. A sideways trajectory deflection was made and the shroud was jettisoned. Then the third stage and payload were spun up, following by separation of the bus. The spin-stabilized third stage then made the 4,555 m-s burn to place the payload into orbit. The third stage was evidently similar to a 5 metric ton thrust spherical motor displayed by the Israelis for their Shavit launch vehicle.

The composite payload fairing for the RSA-3 was 4.5 m long, 1.3 m in diameter, and had a mass of 57 kg. The solar array for the satellite had a mass of less than 7 kg and with three panels could supply 295 W of power. The fairing could resist temperatures of up to + 100 degrees C during ascent and the thermal satellite blanket insulated the payload from temperatures ranging from -80 degrees C to + 100 degrees C.

As an ICBM, it is estimated that the three-stage version of the RSA-3 could have delivered a 340 kg warhead on Washington DC or a 400 kg warhead on Moscow. However such lightweight warheads were beyond declared South African technology. Therefore the RSA-3 was most likely purely a space launch adaptation of the RSA-2 IRBM, with the Peacekeeper-class RSA-4 fulfilling the ICBM role.

The RSA-3 and its mobile erector-launcher were in an advanced stage of test at the time the program was cancelled. It is not known what happened to the hardware that was built. Warheads of the size and type required for use on the RSA-3 were not in the inventory according to the declarations made by South Africa at the time of its nuclear disarmament and signature of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The RSA-4 was in the design stage.

The following is the detailed launch trajectory of the RSA-3:

Event Time from Launch -sec Height -km Slant Range - km Vehicle Mass - kg Velocity - m-s
Ignition 0.0 0.0 0.0 23,564 0
Separation Stages 1-2 54.9 12.8 8.4 13,349 575
Separation Stages 2-3 140.0 104.3 179.8 2,961 3,225
Bus maneuver and shroud ejection 172.0 140.0 272.0 0 3,116
Ignition of Apogee Kick Motor 248.0 196.5 489.0 2,378 2,945
Burnout of AKM 342.0 210.0 914.0 0 7,498
Separation of Payload 460.0 212.0 1806.0 330 7,500

LEO Payload: 330 kg (720 lb) to a 210 km orbit at 41.00 degrees.

Stage Data - RSA-3

  • Stage 1. 1 x RSA-3-1. Gross Mass: 10,215 kg (22,520 lb). Empty Mass: 1,100 kg (2,400 lb). Thrust (vac): 456.000 kN (102,512 lbf). Isp: 265 sec. Burn time: 52 sec. Isp(sl): 240 sec. Diameter: 1.30 m (4.20 ft). Span: 2.30 m (7.50 ft). Length: 6.30 m (20.60 ft). Propellants: Solid. No Engines: 1. Engine: RSA-3-1. Status: Out of Production. Comments: Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa.
  • Stage 2. 1 x RSA-3-2. Gross Mass: 10,971 kg (24,186 lb). Empty Mass: 1,771 kg (3,904 lb). Thrust (vac): 476.600 kN (107,144 lbf). Isp: 277 sec. Burn time: 52 sec. Isp(sl): 220 sec. Diameter: 1.30 m (4.20 ft). Span: 1.30 m (4.20 ft). Length: 6.40 m (20.90 ft). Propellants: Solid. No Engines: 1. Engine: RSA-3-2. Status: Out of production. Comments: Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa. Empty mass includes 583 kg for payload shroud, guidance, orientation and spin-up platform that positions stage 3 and payload for final orbital insertion burn.
  • Stage 3. 1 x RSA-3-3. Gross Mass: 2,048 kg (4,515 lb). Empty Mass: 170 kg (370 lb). Thrust (vac): 58.800 kN (13,219 lbf). Isp: 298 sec. Burn time: 94 sec. Diameter: 1.30 m (4.20 ft). Span: 1.30 m (4.20 ft). Length: 2.60 m (8.50 ft). Propellants: Solid. No Engines: 1. Engine: RSA-3-3. Status: Out of Production. Comments: Data accurate. Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa. ARC/Rafael AUS 51 is identical.

Gross mass: 23,630 kg (52,090 lb).
Payload: 330 kg (720 lb).
Height: 17.65 m (57.90 ft).
Diameter: 1.30 m (4.20 ft).
Thrust: 412.70 kN (92,779 lbf).
Apogee: 210 km (130 mi).
First Launch: 1989.06.01.
Last Launch: 1990.11.19.
Number: 3 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Greensat South African earth land resources satellite. Cancelled 1990. The South African RSA-3 launch vehicle was designed to place a small surveillance satellite of 330 kg mass into a 41 degree, 212 x 460 km orbit around the earth. More...

Associated Engines
  • RSA-3-1 South Africansolid rocket engine. 500 kN. Out of production. Built in both Israel and South Africa for RSA-3 and Shavit. Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa. Isp=273s. First flight 1988. More...
  • RSA-3-2 South African solid rocket engine. 519 kN. In production. Built in both Israel and South Africa for RSA-3 and Shavit. Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa. Isp=284s. First flight 1988. More...
  • RSA-3-3 South Africansolid rocket engine. 51 kN. In production. Israeli AUS-51 rocket motor, built in both Israel and South Africa. Isp=292s. Upper stage engine for RSA-3, RSA-4, Shavit, Shavit 1. First flight 1988. More...

See also
  • Daniel Israel and South Africa collaborated closely in rocket technology in the 1970's and 1980's. South Africa provided Israel with the uranium and test facilities it needed for its strategic weapons programmes. In exchange Israel provided aerospace technology. This included the capability of building the ten-tonne solid propellant rocket motors designed for the Israeli Jericho-2 missile. These motors were the basis of two space launchers for an indigenous 'R5b' space programme. It seems that South Africa also planned to use these motors in a series of missiles to provide a nuclear deterrent. More...
  • RSA Israel and South Africa collaborated closely in rocket technology in the 1970's and 1980's. South Africa provided Israel with the uranium and test facilities it needed for its strategic weapons programmes. In exchange Israel provided aerospace technology. This included the capability of building the ten-tonne solid propellant rocket motors designed for the Israeli Jericho-2 missile. These motors were the basis of two space launchers for an indigenous 'R5b' space programme. It seems that South Africa also planned to use these motors in a series of missiles to provide a nuclear deterrent. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • IAI Israeli manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • Overberg The Overberg Test Range (OTR) was developed by the Houwteq organization in the 1980's as part of South Africa's ballistic missile and R5b space program. It was located at the southernmost tip of Africa on the south-eastern coast of the Western Cape at Latitude 34 deg 35 min S and Longitude 20 deg 19 min E. The facility had a total area of 43,000 hectares. More...

Associated Stages
  • RSA-3-1 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 10,215/1,100 kg. Thrust 456.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 265 seconds. Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa. More...
  • RSA-3-2 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 10,971/1,771 kg. Thrust 476.60 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 277 seconds. Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa. Empty mass includes 583 kg for payload shroud, guidance, orientation and spin-up platform that positions stage 3 and payload for final orbital insertion burn. More...
  • RSA-3-3 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 2,048/170 kg. Thrust 58.80 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 298 seconds. Data accurate. Source: Missile exhibit and placards, AF Museum, South Africa. ARC/Rafael AUS 51 is identical. More...

RSA-3 Chronology


1989 June 1 - . Launch Site: Overberg. LV Family: RSA. Launch Vehicle: RSA-3. LV Configuration: RSA-3-d 1.
1989 July 6 - . Launch Site: Overberg. LV Family: RSA. Launch Vehicle: RSA-3. LV Configuration: RSA-3 2.
1990 November 19 - . Launch Site: Overberg. LV Family: RSA. Launch Vehicle: RSA-3. LV Configuration: RSA-3 3.
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