Has an SRB been considered for use in orbit to launch to escape velocity to deep space? Consider SRB disposable and deep space vehicle continues on liquid propulsion. SRB conserves liquid propellants for later orbit maneuvers for deep space vehicle.

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    $\begingroup$ I like your question! You could ask a follow-up question more focused on the reasons and trade-offs between solid and liquid in these cases as well. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 30 '16 at 1:38

This is referred to as 'kick stage' motor and is commonly used. One example being Star 37. A larger Star 48 is what sent New Horizons on the way to Pluto

  • $\begingroup$ Star 48 was the motor in the PAM-D stage, referred to in my answer, as well. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 29 '16 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ I have seen "kick motor" more often then "kick stage". But both are correct, I guess. $\endgroup$ – Polygnome Oct 30 '16 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Polygnome Funnily enough, even ATK STAR product page refers to them as Motors/Stages $\endgroup$ – kert Oct 30 '16 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ oh man! I did my Propulsion teacher a disservice for not suggesting the "motor" keyword. Industry jargon is that solid rockets are motors and liquid are engines. Good answer. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Oct 30 '16 at 17:55

There's at least one example, the Inertial Upper Stage (nee Interim Upper Stage) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inertial_Upper_Stage

Wikipedia's summary is:

The Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), originally designated the Interim Upper Stage, was a two-stage solid-fueled rocket upper stage developed by Boeing for the United States Air Force beginning in 1976 for raising payloads from low Earth orbit to higher orbits or interplanetary trajectories following launch aboard a Titan 34D or Titan IV rocket, or from the payload bay of the Space Shuttle.

A pertinent search phrase would be "solid upper stages."


The PAM-D was another solid fuel upper stage used on the Space Shuttle and Delta II launchers.

enter image description here

For the Shuttle application, one or more PAMs were carried in cradles in the payload bay. They were spring launched out of the bay, as in this picture, and the SRM ignited at a safe distance.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you clarify "...solid fuel upper stage used on the Space Shuttle..."? Did the space shuttle cary a satellite into orbit and the satellite included a PAM-D? Sounds scary! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 30 '16 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, added a few words and a picture. The shuttle carried IUSes too - now that was a giant SRM. americaspace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/tdrse.jpg At least the PAMs went straight up - the IUSes came soaring just over the crew cabin. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 30 '16 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ Centaur (the specialized Centaur-G) was planned to be flown out of the Shuttle payload bay as well, but post-Challenger they decided having another Hydrolox stage in there was too scary and shelved it. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Oct 30 '16 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I worked on the sim for the Centaur G Prime. Trying to dump all that prop when the shuttle did an ascent abort was ... interesting. arstechnica.com/science/2015/10/… $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 30 '16 at 20:33

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