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Magnum Launch Vehicle

The Shuttle-derived Magnum would be a heavy-lift vehicle with a payload capacity of some 80 metric tons, more than four times what the Space Shuttle can carry to low Earth orbit. It would use a stretched version of the Shuttle's external tank and reusable, liquid-fueled flyback boosters being considered for development in the Space Shuttle program. Potential uses are for human exploration of the Moon and Mars; to carry the next-generation space telescope; in the Air Force space-based laser program; and even, possibly,for interception if an asteroid were hurtling toward Earth.

The 1997 Reference Mission, an element of NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) enterprise, called for a launch vehicle like the Magnum then under consideration by NASA. This rocket would be designed to place payloads weighing up to 80 metric tons into low Earth orbit. This lift capacity would be sufficient to propel Mars cargo modules, human habitation modules and their respective propulsion modules into low-earth orbit. Once there, the cargo and habitation modules would dock with their propulsion modules and then set off to Mars with the crew on a fast-transit trajectory.

The Magnum vehicle configuration includes a core component which is 8.4 meters (27.5 ft) in diameter, the same as the Shuttle External Tank, to allow common use of Shuttle boosters and launch facilities.

By using Shuttle launch facilities and the proposed Liquid Fly Back Boosters (LFBB), recurring costs is estimated to be less than $1000 per pound of payload. A composite shroud is used to protect the payload during ascent and a small kick stage is used for circularizing the orbit. One design of the Magnum launch vehicle provides a delivery capability of 85 metric tons (188 KLB) to 407 km (220 nmi) orbits at 28.5 degrees inclination or 80 metric tons (176 KLB) to 51.6 degree inclination orbits.

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