In the history of space, one rocket stands out as an icon of not only the space race but of the mighty power it symbolised.
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At 1:00 there is a spelling mistake showing the payload as 1,1000,000lb this, of course, should be 1,100,000 lbs.
That one rocket, which is still the Tallest, heaviest and most powerful ever built, was the Saturn V, which was designed to take men to the moon and later launched the first American Space station, Skylab.
But if things had been a little different back in the 60’s we might have had a different rocket to hang on the bedroom walls of the space fans of the 70’s and 80’s.
In the early 1960’s, a rocket was designed which made the Saturn V look small comparison.
This was the Sea Dragon, a super heavy lift rocket that would have been 10 times more powerful with 80 Million lb’s of thrust compared to the Saturn’s 7.8 million and that was from just one massive engine.
It was designed to lift a payload of 1,100,000 lbs into orbit, compared to the 310,000 lbs of the Saturn V. This meant it could have lifted an entire space station into Low Earth Orbit in one mission.
The rocket bell of this single engine would be so large at 75 feet in diameter, that you could fit the entire first stage of a Saturn V with all 5 of its F1 engines inside with room to spare.
So what happened to the Sea Dragon and why didn’t it get built ?.
At the time of the design in 1962, it was thought that by the 1970’s, 80’s and beyond, thousands of people would be working in space and on the moon, even on Mars and as such, rockets with huge lifting capabilities would have been in great demand as they would dramatically lower the cost of getting materials into space.
The sea dragon was designed by Robert Truax, a US Navy Captain and Rocket engineer. He was one of the pioneers of American rocketry and worked on the Thor and Polaris missiles amongst others. His team debriefed the German Rocket engineers at the end of World War 2 including Werner Von Braun who went on to design the Saturn V.
Traux believed it was complexity that drove up the cost of rockets and not their size. His designs for the Sea Dragon were very simple but very big. The sea dragon would have been 75 ft in diameter and 500ft tall, half the Hight of Chrysler building…..
Schematics and drawings of the Sea Dragon used with permission of aerospaceprojectsreview.com