Aerojet Cosmos launcher: 1960-61 plug nozzle recoverable "Saturn"


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14 June 2006
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I may be wrong. but this is a first since 1961... Anyway, contemporaneous, and parallel to, the ABMA first and NASA/Marshall later development of the Saturn family, a score of companies in the 1959-1962 timeframe studied, designed and proposed alternate heavy launch vehicles, either based on the F-1 engine or not. The Cosmos was one ot these latter design, by Aerojet, conspicously based on a plug nozzle engine, not of the truncated aerospike design yet. The Cosmos was a 6 million lbs thrust first staged booster, so equivalent to a Saturn C-4's S-IB, pressure-fed and LO/LH fuelled. The configuration shown dates from December 1960, when it was at least 18 months in development. By that time, Aerojet has expanded his studies to an entire family of medium-heavy and superheavy boosters, using different concepts for propulsion and ranging from around 1.5 million up to 30 million lbs first stage thrust. Importantly, Cosmos was recoverable. Aerojet studied four type of recovery gear/methods: combnation of aero-brakes, parachutes and balloon; aero-brake, parachutes and retro-rockets; rotary-wing devices; aero-brakes and air-breathing retro engines. Aerojet thought that the first method was the best compromise considering a 50-100 launch traffic of this type of heavy boosters during the following decade. I've not been able to find more on Cosmos. I know that the recovery options were detailed in a presentation to the IAS Congress of mid January 1961 in New York (apparently it is not available online from AIAA, successor society to IAS) and probably, with the other booster concepts mentioned before, in a gargantuan report theoretically available on CASI but that CASI itself (grrr) refuses to sell because it is... gargantuan (almost 900 pages, too much work to scan...). So till new info, I rely on two articles of Aviation Week (not AW&ST yet) from February 1st, 1960, and January 30th 1961. Any more info from members ?


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Very interesting. If you learn more, please do post.

By the way, I believe that the AIAA is the successor to the American Rocket Society (following a merger in 1963 with the Institute of Aeronautics). I've never heard of the IAS; could you be thinking of the IAF, International Astronautical Federation?
AIAA was born in 1963 from the merger of the American Rocket Society and the Institute of Aerospace Sciences (former Institute of Aeronautic Sciences).
Some more info. Illustrated are two concept of plug-nozzle launchers from 1960. Probably they are not at the same scale. The one at the right could be an early design of Cosmos with a traditional (?) second stage and payload. No sure idea as to the identity of the left one, that looks an SSTO. But... : second picture is a sketch design by General Electric, who studied plug nozzle engines, going till subscale prototypes. The inboard profile of that concept come from a NASA report by GE and it was much smaller. There could be some relation with the launcher at left in the first picture, if you delete the second stage from the GE sketch.


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...Actually the first I've ever heard of this concept. Shame on Scott Lowther for not having brought it up before Skybolt :D
Never give up....
New information on Cosmos found. Actually it poses more questions than gives answers, for example: why NASA HQ (pay attention) was interested in a derivative still in 1962 ?
Stay tuned.

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