FIGURE 4-16. Decrease of payload with circular orbit altitude and orbit inclination for the Pegasus launch vehicle. This is an air-launched, relatively simple, three-stage launch vehicle of 50 in. diameter driven by a solid propellant rocket motor in each stage. (Courtesy Orbital Sciences Corporation)
The figure shows that a practical payload becomes too small for orbits higher than about 1200 km. To lift heavier pay loads and to go to higher orbits requires a larger launch vehicle than the Pegasus. Figure 4—16 is based on the assumption of a particular payload separation mechanism (38 in.) and a specific Aw vehicle velocity reserve (220 ft/sec), for items such as the normal changes in atmospheric density (which can double the drag) or mass tolerances of the propulsion systems. Similar curves can be provided by the makers of all launch vehicles.
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