Is there any existing technology for attaching fueled boosters to a spacecraft? (not for a space station)

Space assets (e.g. module, spacecraft or satellite orbiter) could be boosted to place in earth orbit first, then additional fueled boosters (from a second launch) could be docked to this space asset for a trip to the moon or Mars, etc.

To reiterate, I'm interested in launching fuel vessel boosters in a second launch and docking these fueled boosters onto a spacecraft orbiting Earth.

  • $\begingroup$ Carrying the mass of the first (and second; most practical space launchers are three-stage designs) stage(s) into orbit is going to come at an enormous mass fraction penalty. Looking at a spacecraft on the launchpad, you are already looking at anywhere between 80 and 100 times as much fuel mass as rocket mass, and first stage separation usually occurs within the first 1-3 minutes of flight. Keeping the first and second stages until you attain even low orbit means you need far more propellant than even that. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 18 '16 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Kjörling , thats why i asking is there any possibility to dock boosting device in earth orbit to getting first two stages of spacecraft for further mission.?. For this there need to lauch fuel vassel boosters in second step and docked these fueled boosters into spacecraft orbiting in earth orbit. $\endgroup$ – Jagdeep Singh Apr 18 '16 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ I've reopened the question as it has been refined and I now believe it to be more clear. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Apr 18 '16 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ A space station IS a space craft. There is no practical difference between them for that matter. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Apr 18 '16 at 16:50

Does the technology exist? Yes, and it has since it was clear that docking was reliable enough to be used in the Apollo project. When the Lunar Module ascended from the Moon, it docked with the CSM. That is by most common measures to dock with a booster. After all, the main purpose of the SM was to insert the Apollo stack into lunar orbit, and then depart towards Earth. That is very much a booster role. Through hundreds of visits to space stations, docking is made an everyday and safe operation. We have the technology.

Does the spacecraft exist? No, not at the moment. While for example space station resupply craft, like Progress, have engines, and can be used for station re-boost, they are not dedicated boosters by themselves. Apart from space stations, docking is not much used. Today, we have no such boosters. Building them is however not an issue if needed.

The scenario you describe is very close to the concept of the Parom space tug, a planned component for Clipper, but may also be used for in-orbit cargo transportation. We have yet to see how many of those plans will be realized.

Clipper and Parom

As a historical reference, the Agena target vehicle used by Gemini, was among other things also used for propulsion, for example for setting the at-the-time record for being farthest away from Earth.

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    $\begingroup$ It's a bit funny that a pure double launch has never been attempted for anything but LEO stations. It is an old and common idea and dockings have been done a hundred successful times. A 2.5 bn dollar Mars rover could maybe benefit from a 0.2 bn dollar extra Atlas V launch of a 20 ton fuel tank. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Apr 18 '16 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ I imagine it's more effective to spend that kind of money on miniaturizing the instruments on a single-launch mission. Avoiding the risk of additional failure modes during an uncrewed docking might be another driver; the Apollo 14 LM docking-and-extraction problem, e.g. would likely have terminated an uncrewed mission. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Apr 18 '16 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ got the answer, tnx $\endgroup$ – Jagdeep Singh Apr 20 '16 at 10:20

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