Scout and Kosmos-3M, two of the most launched small-lift launch vehicles
Class overview
NameSmall-lift launch vehicle
OperatorsVarious space organizations
Preceded bySounding rocket
Succeeded byMedium-lift launch vehicle
Built1957–
Building23
Active18
Retired46
General characteristics
PropulsionVarious liquid-fueled engines and solid motors
Capacity
  • <2 metric tons (NASA)
  • <5 metric tons (Russia)

A small-lift launch vehicle is a rocket orbital launch vehicle that is capable of lifting up to 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) (by NASA classification) or up to 5,000 kilograms (11,000 lb) (by ROSCOSMOS classification)[1] of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). The next larger category consists of medium-lift launch vehicles.[2]

The first small-lift launch vehicle was the Sputnik rocket, launched by the Soviet Union, which was derived from the R-7 Semyorka ICBM. On 4 October 1957, the Sputnik rocket was used to perform the world's first satellite launch, placing the Sputnik 1 satellite into a low Earth orbit.[3][4][5] NASA responded by attempting to launch the Vanguard rocket.[6][7] However, the Vanguard TV3 launch attempt failed, with the 31 January 1958 launch of the Explorer 1 satellite using the Juno I rocket being the first successful NASA orbital launch. The Vanguard I mission was the second successful NASA orbital launch. This was the start of the space race.[8][9]

Since the late 1950s, small-lift launch vehicles have continued launching payloads to space. Medium-lift launch vehicles, heavy-lift launch vehicles, and super heavy-lift launch vehicles have also been extensively developed but have not completely been able to supersede the small launch vehicles. Small launch vehicles can meet the requirements of some spacecraft, and can also be less expensive than a larger launch vehicle would be.[citation needed]

Rated launch vehicles

Vehicle Origin Manufacturer Mass to
LEO
(kg)
Mass to
other orbits
(kg)
Launches Status First flight Last flight Mission cost
SS-520  Japan IHI 4 2 Retired 2017 2018 $4.5M[10]
Vanguard  United States Martin 9[11] 11(+1) Retired 1957 1959
Qased  Iran IRGCASF 10∼50 2 Operational 2020
Juno I[12]  United States Chrysler 11 6 Retired 1958 1959
Veloce 17  United States Eldorado Space[13] 12 0 Development
Lambda 4S  Japan Nissan Motors[14] 26[15] 5 Retired 1966 1977[16]
SLV  India ISRO 40[17] 4 Retired 1979 1983
Juno II[18]  United States Chrysler 41 10 Retired 1958 1961
Boeing Small Launch Vehicle[19]  United States Boeing 45[20] 0 Development
Safir  Iran Iranian Space Agency 50[21] 8 Retired 2008 2019
Vector-R  United States Vector Space Systems 60[22] 0(+2) Defunct
Blue Whale 1  South Korea Perigee Aerospace 63[23] 50 to SSO 0 Development
Black Arrow  United Kingdom RAE 73[24] 4 Retired 1969[note 1] 1971
Miura 1  Spain PLD Space 100[25] 0 Development (2022)
Naro-1  South Korea
 Russia
KARI/Khrunichev 100[26] 3 Retired 2009 2013
Volna  Russia Makeyev 100[27] 1(+5)[28] Retired 1995[note 2] 2005[28]
Kaituozhe-1  China CALT 100[29] 2 Retired 2002 2003[30]
Agnibaan  India Agnikul Cosmos 100 0 Development (2022)
Diamant  France SEREB 107[31][32] 12 Retired 1965 1975
Vector-H  United States Vector Space Systems 110[33] 0 Defunct
ZERO  Japan Interstellar Technologies 100 to SSO[34] 0 Development (2022)
Capricornio[35]  Spain Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial 140 0 Canceled
ASLV  India ISRO 150 4 Retired 1987 1994
Chetak  India Bellatrix Aerospace 150 0 Development (2023)
VLM (rocket)[36]  Brazil Brazilian General Command for Aerospace Technology 150 0 Development (2023)
Shavit 2  Israel IAE 160[37] 11 Operational 1988
Scout  United States US Air Force/NASA 174[38] 125 Retired 1961 1994
Mu-4S  Japan Nissan Motors[14] 180[15] 4 Retired 1971 1972
Mu-3C  Japan Nissan Motors[14] 195[15] 4 Retired 1974 1979
Unha  North Korea KCST 200[39] 4 Operational 2009
Haribon SLS-1  Philippines OrbitX 200[40] 0 Development (2023–2024)
DNLV  Malaysia Independence-X Aerospace[41] 220 0 Development (2023-2024)
Volans  Singapore Equatorial Space Systems[42] 220 150 to SSO 0 Development (2023)
Zuljanah  Iran Iranian Space Agency 220 0(+1) Development (2021)
Tronador II  Argentina CONAE 250[43] 0 Development
Shtil'  Russia Makeyev 280 – 420[44] 2[28] Retired 1998 2006
Mu-3H  Japan Nissan Motors[14] 300[15] 3 Retired 1977 1978
Mu-3S  Japan Nissan Motors[14] 300[15] 4 Retired 1980 1984
Long March 1 (CZ-1)  China CALT 300[45] 2[46] Retired[47] 1970[46] 1971[46]
Electron  New Zealand
 United States
Rocket Lab 300[48] 200 to SSO[48] 25 Operational 2017 $7.5M (2019)[49]
Vikram 1  India Skyroot Aerospace 315 255 to SSO[50] 0 Development (2022)
Skyrora XL  United Kingdom Skyrora 315[51] 0 Development (2023)[52]
Delta 1913  United States McDonnell Douglas 328[53] 1[54] Retired 1973 1973
Delta 2310  United States McDonnell Douglas 336[55] 3[54] Retired 1974 1981
Delta 1410  United States McDonnell Douglas 340[56] 1[54] Retired 1975 1975
Simorgh  Iran Iranian Space Agency 350[57] 5(+1) Operational 2016
VLS-1  Brazil AEB, INPE 380[58] 2[note 3] Retired 1997 2003
Delta 1604  United States McDonnell Douglas 390[59] 2[54] Retired 1972 1973
Hapith V  Taiwan TiSPACE 390[60] 350 to SSO 0 Development
Kuaizhou-1  China CASC 400[61] 3[61] Operational 2013[61]
Falcon 1  United States SpaceX 420[62] 5 Retired[63] 2006 2009
Pegasus  United States Orbital 443[64] 45[65] Operational 1990 $56M (2014) [66]
Conestoga  United States Space Services Inc. 500[67] 3 Retired 1982 1995
Sputnik 8K71PS  Soviet Union RSC Energia 500[68] 2 Retired 1957 1957
Launcher One  United States Virgin Orbit 500[69] 300 to SSO 4 Operational 2020 $12M (2020)[70]
SSLV  India ISRO / NSIL 500 300 to SSO 0 Development (2022)
Vikram II  India Skyroot Aerospace 520 410 to SSO[50] 0 Development TBD
Start-1  Russia MITT 532[71] 350 to SSO[72] 5[73] Operational 1993
Minotaur I  United States Orbital 580[74] 11[75] Operational 2000 $28.8M (2013) [76]
Long March 6  China CALT 500 to SSO 8 Operational 2015
Rocket 3  United States Astra Space, Inc. 630[77] 6 Operational 2020 $2,5M(2020)[78]
Long March 11  China CALT 700[79] 11 Operational 2015[80]
Paektusan  North Korea KCST 700[81] 1 Retired 1998
Vikram III  India Skyroot Aerospace 720 580 to SSO[50] 0 Development TBD
Long March 1D (CZ-1D)  China CALT 740[82] 0(+3) Retired 1995[note 4] 2002
Mu-3SII  Japan Nissan Motors[14] 770[15] 8 Retired 1985 1995
Athena I  United States Lockheed Martin 795[83] 515 to GTO 4[84] Retired 1995 2001 $17M (2000)[85]
Delta 3913  United States McDonnell Douglas 816[86] 1[54] Retired 1981 1981
Miura 5  Spain PLD Space 900 0 Development (2024)[87]
Alpha  United States Firefly Aerospace 1,000[88] 600 to SSO 1 Operational 2021 $15M(2020) [89]
J-I  Japan IHI Corporation
Nissan Motors[14]
1,000[90] 0(+1) Retired 1996 1996
Delta 1910  United States McDonnell Douglas 1,066[91] 1[54] Retired 1975 1975
N-I  Japan
 United States
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 1,200[92] 7 Retired 1975 1982[citation needed]
Epsilon  Japan IHI Aerospace[93]      1,200[15] 5 Operational[15] 2013 $38M[94]
Terran 1  United States Relativity Space 1,250 0 Development (2022) $10M(2019)[95]
Delta 0900  United States McDonnell Douglas 1,300[96] 818 to SSO[54] 2[54] Retired 1972 1972
Sputnik 8A91  Soviet Union RSC Energia 1,327 2 Retired 1958 1958
RS1  United States ABL Space Systems 1,350[97] 400 to GTO 0 Development (2022) $12M(2021)[98]
Atlas LV-3B[99]  United States Convair 1,360 9 Retired 1960 1963
Strela  Russia Khrunichev 1,400[100] 3[101] Operational[101] 2003
H-I  Japan
 United States
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 1,400[102] 9 Retired 1986 1992
Minotaur-C  United States Orbital 1,450[103] 1,050[103] to SSO 10[104] Operational[105] 1994 $45M[106]
Kosmos-3M  Soviet Union
 Russia
NPO Polyot 1,500[107] 442[108] Retired 1967 2010
Kuaizhou-11  China CASC 1,500 0 Development
Minotaur IV  United States Orbital 1,735[109] 7[110] Operational 2010[111] $50M[112]
M-V  Japan Nissan Motors[14] (−2000)
IHI AEROSPACE[93] (−2006)
1,800 – 1,850[15] 7 Retired 1997 2006
Athena II  United States Lockheed Martin 1,800[113] 3[114] Retired[115] 1998 1999 $46M (2014)[116]
Delta 1900  United States McDonnell Douglas 1,800[54] 1[54] Retired 1973 1973
Delta 2910  United States McDonnell Douglas 1,887[54] 6[54] Retired 1975 1978
Rokot  Russia Khrunichev 1,950[117] 1,200 to SSO 34 Retired 1990 2019 $41M
Vega  Italy Avio 1,450 to SSO 20 Operational 2012 $37M[106]

See also

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Notes

  1. ^ Suborbital test in 1969, first orbital launch attempt in 1970
  2. ^ First orbital launch attempt in 2005
  3. ^ A third rocket exploded before launch
  4. ^ Suborbital test flights in 1995, 1997 and 2002, no orbital launches attempted

Further reading