Starchaser Industries RLVs


ACCESS: Top Secret
Mar 11, 2010
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Starchaser Industries is a British company developing sounding and space tourism rockets. Before describing more recent work, thought I'd post details of their original Ansari X-prize entry Thunderbird.

The following vehicle and mission specs come from the attached PDF which is from the original X-prize site:

[quote author=]

  • Name: Starchaser 4 (launch vehicle), Thunderbird (spacecraft/cabin)
  • Length: 27.5 m (90 feet)
  • Diameter: 1.6 m (5.3 feet)
  • GTOW: 20,000 kg (44,000 lbm)
  • Dry Weight: 10,000 kg (22,000 lb m)
  • Crew Environment: Pressurized cabin with commercial IVA suits
  • Payload Capacity: 400 kg
  • No. of Engines: 4 strap-on boosters and 1 engine on 1st stage, 1 engine on 2nd stage
  • Propulsion System: Pressure fed
  • Fuel: Undefined hydrocarbon
  • Oxidizer: Liquid Oxygen
  • Total Thrust: 75 tons
  • Reaction Control System: Cold gas


  • Alt. at Ignition: Earth surface
  • Orientation at Ignition: Vertical
  • Max. Accel. Force on Ascent: 5 G
  • Time and Alt. at 1st Stage Engine Cut-off: 60 sec at 24 km
  • Time and Alt. at 2nd Stage Engine Cut-off: 90 sec at 54 km
  • Max. Speed: 1,500 m/s (3,360 mph)
  • Max. Altitude: > 100 km (62 miles)
  • Time in Weightless Conditions: 4.5 minutes
  • Reentry Method: Ballistic reentry
  • Accel. Forces on Descent: 5 G
  • Landing Method: Steerable parachute
  • Total Duration: 23 minutes
  • Landing Distance from Take-off
  • Location: 0-5 km
  • Time Between Missions: 7 days

Update: some further images at (several attached)


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ACCESS: Top Secret
Mar 11, 2010
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Realising that their Thunderbird plans were perhaps over ambitious (and rather more capable than needed for the X-prize), Starchaser moved to a different VTVL vehicle called Thunderstar. This is still their proposed space tourism vehicle.

[quote author=]
Thunderstar - Three Man Capsule

The THUNDERSTAR capsule is being developed to carry a 3-person crew on a sub-orbital flight and return them safely back to Earth. The design of the THUNDERSTAR capsule leverages the experienced gained from the STARCHASER NOVA and NOVA II one-man capsules.

The capsule is designed to interface with the STARCHASER 5 Reusable Launch Vehicle and reach an altitude of between 100 and 120km.

The capsule will also feature a Launch Escape System that will pull the capsule and it's crew to safety in the event of an emergency, either on the pad prior to launch or at any stage during the powered ascent phase.

Starchaser 5 - Re-usable Launch Vehicle

The STARCHASER 5 booster is being developed to propel a 1.5 tonne payload to an altitude in excess of 100km. The booster will incorporate the two propellant tanks, (Liquid Oxygen and Kerosene) with a third high pressure tank which will hold the inert gas used to push (feed) the propellant to the engines.

The STARCHASER 5 booster is designed to be 100% reusable and will be recovered by parachute with the addition on an impact attenuation system.

Here's an animation of a Thunderstar mission:

As an example of the development work Starchaser have done, here's a video of a Nova 2 (one-man) capsule drop test from July 2003:


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ACCESS: Top Secret
Mar 11, 2010
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Longer-term Starchaser envisage a space tourism spaceplane. I've been unable to find any details of this, other than the attached flight profile from their website.


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