How Big Is Your Rocket?

There's a new global space race on, as countries spend billions to join the nine that have successfully launched rockets into orbit. Here's a look at four of the contenders.

ILLUSTRATION BY JASON LEE FOR FP
ILLUSTRATION BY JASON LEE FOR FP
ILLUSTRATION BY JASON LEE FOR FP

Iran

Rocket: Safir-2

Status: Confirmed launch

Iran

Rocket: Safir-2

Status: Confirmed launch

Height: 22 m

Diameter: 1.25 m

Mass: 26,000 kg

Liftoff thrust: 361.2 kilonewtons (estimated in stage 1)

Budget: About $100 million per year

The Iranian Space Agency was established in 2004 and opened a space center in February 2008. A year later, the program drew headlines by launching its Safir-2 rocket, which carried the Omid satellite into space.

 

Brazil

Rocket: VLS-1

Status: Launch planned for 2011

Height: 19 m

Diameter: 1 m

Mass: 50,000 kg

Liftoff thrust: 1,049 kN

Budget: About $150 million per year

Brazil has been attempting to develop a space rocket since the 1960s. Its early Sonda models succeeded, but the program has since met with failure. Two VLS-1 prototypes failed, and in 2003, a third blew up on the launchpad, killing 21 people.

 

South Korea

Rocket: Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, also known as Naro-1

Status: Launch scheduled for mid-August

Height: 33.5 m

Diameter: 2.9 m

Mass: 140,000 kg

Liftoff thrust: About 1,800 kN

Budget: About $250 million per year

South Korea has been producing military rockets since 1993, but only recently has it begun to focus on developing a domestic space program. Interestingly, it has been getting help not from its usual ally the United States, but from Russia, where the first South Korean astronaut trained.

 

North Korea

Rocket: Taepodong-2 (TD-2)

Status: Unconfirmed launch

Height: About 35 m

Diameter: 2.2 m

Mass: 78,000 kg

Liftoff thrust: 570 kN

Budget: $300 million, est., for recent launch

In 1998, the state-run Korean Central News Agency claimed the launch of the first North Korean satellite, Kwangmyongsong-1, via a three-stage TD-1 rocket. More recently, the country has claimed a number of other satellite launches, but analysts say these might simply be a cover for missile testing.

James Downie is an editorial researcher at FP.

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