Rocket system that boosts a spacecraft into Earth orbit or beyond Earth's gravitational pull. A wide variety of launch vehicles have been used to lift payloads ranging from satellites weighing a few pounds (or kilograms) to large modular components of space stations. Most launch vehicles are expendable (one-use) systems; many early ones were derived from intercontinental ballistic missiles (see ICBM). The Saturn V, which launched the spacecraft that carried humans to the Moon (see Apollo), had three stages (see staged rocket). The U.S. space shuttle system (from 1981) represents a significant departure from expendable launch vehicles in that it is partially reusable—its manned orbiting component is designed for numerous flights, and its solid rocket boosters can be recovered and refurbished.
Learn more about launch vehicle with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The KSLV-I launch vehicle is based on the first stage of the Russian Angara rocket and will be built by Russia. The solid-fueled second stage of KSLV-I will be built by South Korea. The launch complex for KSLV will also be built by Russia. It will be capable of launching a satellite weighing 100 kilograms into low orbit. The first launch of KSLV-I is planned for 2008.
Related rocket: Angara
U.S. should upgrade engine, avoid building rocket, CEO says. (for space launch vehicle, Norman R. Augustine of Martin Marietta Corp. speaking at Washington Space Business Roundtable)
Nov 07, 1994; The U.S. government should develop a new main engine for an upgraded space launch vehicle rather than attempt to achieve a...