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What is the largest and/or heaviest object that could be sent to space? I know the space station is sent in pieces but I am looking with one launch.

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  • $\begingroup$ Related: space.stackexchange.com/questions/13657/… $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 17 '18 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ The Moon? Of course, it required advanced techniques, and there were some side effects... $\endgroup$ – Don Branson Jul 17 '18 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about what could be done now, or have been done in recent history, or about fundamental scientific limits to what could be done in the future? Your question isn't quite clear. $\endgroup$ – Steve Linton Jul 18 '18 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ If it should be large only, a balloon satellite like Echo 2 with a diameter of 41 m will be the largest possible object. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jul 18 '18 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ Also, "to space", is quite vague. Just reach the Kármán line (100 km ASL, the commonly accepted limit between the atmosphere and space)? Get into LEO? Get into another orbit? Reach escape velocity? $\endgroup$ – jcaron Jul 18 '18 at 11:51
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Historically, the heaviest payloads that reached orbit were the Apollo missions; the third stage of the Saturn V booster plus the Apollo spacecraft combined exceeded 140 tons in low Earth orbit. The lower two stages alone could put over 120 tons in orbit; such a configuration was used to launch the Skylab space station in a single 77-ton piece.

Today, the highest-capacity operational launcher is the Falcon Heavy, allegedly capable of putting over 50 tons into orbit (though the figures are pretty unclear). Delta IV Heavy (28 tons) and Long March 5 (25 tons) are the 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

Unlike the largest historical launchers (Saturn V, Energia, and STS), which carried payload at least partially externally (if you count the STS orbiter as payload), the modern heavy lift launchers expect the payload to be entirely contained within a fairing, which sets limits on the physical size of the payload. Long March 5 and Falcon use a 5.2 meter diameter fairing, Delta IV a 5.1 meter fairing -- various different lengths are available.

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  • $\begingroup$ Payload mass for Block 2 for the Space Launch System is expected to be able to place over 140 tons into Low Earth Orbit. Until SLS, BFR, Long March 9 fly, Saturn V is the only proven heavy lifter. - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ – gwally Jul 18 '18 at 0:59
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I believe the plan is for SpaceX BFR to be able to take 150 tons into space:

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Reference

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  • $\begingroup$ More content would help maybe some stats on each.+1 $\endgroup$ – Muze Jul 18 '18 at 4:49
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There is no sensible limit to how much could be launched, just a mater of practicality.

Project Orion's aimed for it's interstellar craft to take 5500 tonnes to LEO, as a "conventional" launcher, Sea Dragon aimed at 550 tonnes.

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  • $\begingroup$ but orion project, using an atomic pulse engine never had a plan on how to use it before reaching orbit without emitting radiation: there were ideas about using a conventional engine on the ground (which brings the whole discussion back to the kind of engine / payload we can use now) $\endgroup$ – Edoardo Jul 18 '18 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ The question isn't "what could we send to space without causing radioactive emissions" @eddyce $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jul 18 '18 at 10:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JCRM I would invite you to give details in your answer itself regarding the why Project Orion could do it but won't do it. $\endgroup$ – Cœur Jul 18 '18 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM and if you read I said "..never had a plan on how to use it before reaching orbit..." since orion engines don't exist yet this whole thing is just hypotetical unless the question is "what could we send to space with any possible future technology" then I'd say star trek teleport is a good option too $\endgroup$ – Edoardo Jul 18 '18 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ They planned to use the engines for launch @eddyce $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jul 18 '18 at 11:48

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