Remember NASA’s NOVA rocket


NOVA rocket - Credit : NASA 

NOVA rocket – Credit: NASA

At the end of the 1950s, even before Kennedy’s famous speech, the young NASA already had lunar ambitions. It was a time when everything remained to be done. However, the US space agency was already certain that an immense rocket would be needed to send men to the Moon as part of their Moon exploration program. Four mission profiles were first envisaged: they required rendezvous in Earth orbit, in the Moon orbit or on the surface of the Moon. A mission profile called “Direct Ascent” proposed to carry out the whole trip without any rendezvous: from the Earth to the Moon, then from Moon to Earth without orbital rendezvous and in a single launch from Earth.

NOVA was a huge rocket concept

Saturn V rocket - Credit : NASA

Saturn V rocket – Credit: NASA

Such a mission profile is very energy-intensive. It would have taken a monstrous rocket to implement it. NASA imagined the NOVA rocket. This rocket would have been built thanks to the same elements as the Saturn V, but in a bigger version. On the first stage, eight F-1 engines and eight J-2 engines on the second stage. It is enough to send 68 tons in translunar injection, 20 tons more than the Saturn V rocket.

NASA finally selected Saturn V

In the end, the Apollo program selected a mission profile requiring a rendezvous in lunar orbit. This mission profile requires a less powerful launcher and it is thus the Saturn V of Wernher von Braun that was selected.

Wernher von Braun - Credit : NASA/MSFC

Wernher von Braun – Credit: NASA/MSFC

The concepts related to the NOVA rocket were studied again when NASA considered the inhabited travel towards the planet Mars. A version with fourteen F-1 engines on the first stage was thus studied, enough to send 300 tons in low orbit. The excessiveness of these years, however, fell quickly after the Moon race. The different versions of the NOVA rocket will remain in the history books.

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