K-1 (rocket)

The rocket Kistler K -1 is a under development since the 1990s fully reusable launch vehicle. Development began in the U.S. Kistler Aerospace Corporation which continues the development for a business combination with the Rocketplane Limited Incorporated under the new company name Rocketplane Kistler. The K-1 concept was known from the participation in the contest which was from the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program to supply the International Space Station. The payload capacity of the K-1 should be 4600 kg for a 200 km high orbit. The K-1 would be the first fully reusable launch vehicle in the world are successfully launched.

Engineering and Construction

Kistler K -1 is a two-stage rocket and is made of a launch platform Assist, which is the first stage, and the orbital vehicle which is conveyed to the top of the payload. The total height of the rocket is 36.9 meters at a starting weight of around 383.3 tonnes. Both stages of the innovative concept should be able to land without prejudice with the help of parachutes and airbags after successful use. By reusing the modules hopes Rocketplane Kistler, creating a much more cost-effective launch system over the established disposable rockets. In addition to the transport of smaller satellites is to provide the Orbiting Vehicles as a platform for automated experiments in weightlessness main field of application for the K -1. As part of the tendered by NASA COTS program, an additional version was created with a cargo module, which will transport around 2.7 tons of cargo to the ISS. For docking with the ISS capture of the orbiting vehicles using the station's own robotic arm and a docking on a Common Berthing Mechanism was provided on the American part of the station. This docking is carried out by the Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle.

When driving the missile modified by the American company Aerojet engines were chosen from commercially offered Soviet type Kuznetsov NK -33 and Kuznetsov NK -43. Both engines were originally designed for the Soviet N1 moon rocket and intended as AJ26 -58 and -59, see for the first stage and as AJ26 -60 for the second stage use. The primary starting point is initially planned Woomera in Australia. Should the project be successful, also start from other places like the Nevada Test Site are possible.


As a privately funded company Kistler had since the beginning of development always financial problems. Severe setbacks were the bankruptcies of Iridium Incorporated in 2000 and the company Globalstar in 2002, which had registered as an operator of the same satellite telecommunication systems interest in the K -1 launch vehicle. The initial launch of the K-1 was repeatedly delayed since 2000. After the merger with the Rocketplane Limited Incorporated conducted further financial problems to the fact that already in September 2006, just a month after the start of participation in the COTS program, the first appointment with NASA could not be complied with, although already large parts of the first prototype were made. A submitted in February 2007, revised COTS contract under which short-term in addition to the NASA funds 500 million U.S. dollars should be provided by private investors was not successful, so that NASA in October 2007, the exclusion of Rocketplane Kistler from the announced COTS program. After elimination of the originally agreed funding in the amount of 207 million U.S. dollars Kistler was forced to lay off staff and cancel orders at suppliers. The development of the K -1 has since made ​​any significant progress more; a test flight has not yet been carried out.

For the privately organized development of spacecraft high cash prizes and lucrative transportation contracts were in prospect. Following the bankruptcy of the original favorites Rocketplane Kistler and the associated failure of the supply system Kistler K-1, NASA selected in February 2008 as a replacement the Cygnus project of the company Orbital Sciences Corporation ( OSC) from.