Comparison of the emissions of current expendable launch vehicles and future spaceplanes

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This paper compares the environmental impact of two types of launch vehicles, an expendable vertical launcher (Delta IV) and a conceptual SSTO spaceplane. A realistic trajectory for the spaceplane is generated using a multiple-shooting trajectory optimisation method, which integrates physical models and generates an optimal control law minimising the fuel consumption and the emissions of the flight. These were compared with the emissions from a standard Delta IV trajectory. The launch was to a 200 km circular LEO at 27.5° inclination. The chemical investigated is H2O, which contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere. The study shows that for the ascent trajectory the spaceplane produces a total of 5.0143 x 105 kg of H2O, compared with 2.24 x 105 kg for the Delta IV. The spaceplane has a peak production altitude in the sensitive lower stratosphere, compared to the much lower peak production altitude of the Delta IV.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2016
Event67th International Astronautical Congress - Expo Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Mexico
Duration: 26 Sep 201630 Sep 2016
Conference number: 67


Conference67th International Astronautical Congress
Abbreviated titleIAC
Internet address


  • launch vehicles
  • emissions
  • spaceplanes
  • trajectory optimisation
  • environmental impact
  • vertical launcher

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