Centauri Spaceworks Research Department recently did some launches to evaluate some of the most powerful rockets in Space Agency:
- Saturn V + Proton
- Saturn V + N1 B
- SLS Core + Advanced Boosters
All three were tested with a heavy payload of a Habitation Module, and two Hubs (plus enough fairings and tugs glue them together).
To keep the first round of testing consistent all rockets were kept at full throttle until the fuel ran out. It may be possible to get better results by shutting down the engines for parts of the launch.
The Saturn V + N1 B was then only rocket to achieve orbit from the first round of testing. It just barely made orbit with fuel running out slightly before obit. The SLS + boosters did the second best. It ran out of fuel in the upper atmosphere. The Saturn V + Proton did the worst of the three rockets. The Proton did not have enough power to lift the payload and stalled. It burned up all of its fuel without adding any significant altitude.
Since the SLS was so close, a second round of testing was done with throttling the engine. This time the main engine was used until the rocket cleared the tower. Then the main engine was shut down and the rocket relied on the boosters until they ran out. Then the main engine was throttled back up. This allowed the rocket to reach orbit. As with the Saturn V + N1 B this rocket ran out of fuel a few seconds before reaching orbit.
In all of these tests, the goal was only to get the payload to orbit. To reduce weight, the payload was typically mounted directly to the rocket instead of an intermediate tug. This limits the ability to deliver the payload outside of HOM orbit. However, most of Centauri's launches require the payload be delivered to the workshop assembly area, which is 170 units from HOM. Further research will be needed to determine if adding an additional tug to enable extra-orbit delivery will impact the results.