Two questions inspired this question:

Here I'm asking for the highest stage count used one right after the other. Unlike the stack that got to the Moon, each stage should ignite quickly after the previous stage.

  • This then excludes things like the Saturn V and other stacks with booster stages that are ignited hours or days later.
  • Historical rockets and suborbital sounding rockets are fine, as long as it makes it to space (crosses the line whose name shall not be spoken).
  • $\begingroup$ Are you referring to active launchers or historic ones as well? $\endgroup$ – Elad Stern Mar 19 at 15:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I count seven stages in the Apollo stack. The answer to the referenced question forgot about the Launch Escape System. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Mar 19 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ @EladStern historic is fine for sure! I'll adjust the wording to make it clearer, thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 19 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen the LES does not add any velocity to the payload. IMHO it should not count. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 19 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen Launch Escape System is not used to accelerate a payload during a sucessful launch, it is only separated when no longer necessary. But what about the solid fuel boosters needed for stage separation and ignition of the next stage? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 19 at 21:08

As far as I can tell, the most ever used in sequence is 5 on India's ASLV. It only ever succeeded once, though. Wikipedia mentions a possible 5th stage for Titan IVB but I haven't seen actual references to it (possibly it's referring to the Inertial Upper Stage IUS)

Seems that as technology progressed the number of stages has been reduced from the common 3-4 stages down to 2 for nearly all modern launch systems.

Would love to see if anyone finds an instance where more stages were used!

enter image description here Source

  • $\begingroup$ This is great, thanks! Here's a faux ten stager that turned out to only be a four stager. I suppose that it's possible there could be a sounding rocket with five stages, but I'd be really surprised if there was ever six. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 19 at 16:42

As discussed in one of the linked questions, Minotaur V is another 5-stage orbital launcher.

Jason is a 5-stage sounding rocket.


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