Which existing or planned in nearest future rockets will be able to get to the Moon with a payload of about 1000 kg?

For example with the Astrobotic Lunar Lander: https://spacenews.com/astrobotic-unveils-peregrine-lunar-lander/

According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rocket only 3 rockets can get to the Moon:

  • Space Launch System (SLS), USA
  • Unified Modular Launch Vehicle, India (?)
  • Long March 9, China

How about SpaceX Falcon Heavy, New Glenn, Rocket Lab, Antares, Russian rockets, Firefly, Vector?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It depends on how you define getting to the Moon. A lunar orbit, a crash on the surface, a return to the Earth with soft landing? A small payload or a manned mission with a Moon walk and safe return to Earth? $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 28, 2018 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ Related questions: 1. space.stackexchange.com/questions/4793/… 2. space.stackexchange.com/questions/14181/… $\endgroup$
    – Heopps
    Aug 28, 2018 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ Historically the smallest rocket delivered "at least something" to the Moon was Atlas-Agena with Ranger-7 craft en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranger_7 $\endgroup$
    – Heopps
    Aug 28, 2018 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ The question as-is is very fuzzy, IMHO. It would be a better to narrow it down like, "Which current rockets are able to deliver a 100kg lander to the Moon?" or "Which current or planned for the near future rockets would be able to get humans into a lunar orbit?" $\endgroup$
    – DarkDust
    Aug 28, 2018 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ I've added more details. I'm interesting which rockets are able to get the Moon with payload about 1000 kg. For example with the Astrobotic Lunar Lander: spacenews.com/astrobotic-unveils-peregrine-lunar-lander $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2018 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


The Wikipedia list you link to specifies human rated lunar rockets; that's a very short list, because it requires, at minimum, lunar landing and safe return of a multi-ton spacecraft.

For a one-way, 1000 kg lander, many more rockets are capable of the job; any launcher that can get at least 8-10 tons to LEO* could soft-land 1 ton on the lunar surface with an appropriate transfer stage/spacecraft/lander design. That includes, among other designs:

  • Falcon 9
  • Atlas V
  • Delta IV
  • Proton
  • Long March 5
  • Ariane 5

And possibly Soyuz or Antares.

New Glenn would certainly be able to if it's built; I believe the current Firefly, Vector, and Rocket Lab designs are all too small.

* Assume the transfer and lander stages are using hypergolic fuels with ~3000 m/s exhaust velocity (~305 s Isp). Take a conservative delta-v budget of 3300 m/s for translunar injection orbit, 700 m/s for lunar orbital insertion, 2200 m/s for descent and landing = 6200 m/s. Apply rocket equation:

$$ 6200 = 3000 \ln \frac {m_0} {m_f} $$

Hit it with the algebra stick...

$$ 2.067 = \ln \frac {m_0} {m_f} $$


$$ \frac {m_0} {m_f} = e ^ {2.067} = 7.898 $$

Thus the initial (fully fueled) mass could be around 8 times the final (landed) mass.


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