Today's satellites are between 50-500 kg mostly apart form cubesats and their larger versions(3U-16U), which have brought the demand for microlaunchers. Rocket Lab's Electron, is one great example. I want to know how many of this small/minisatellite launch vehicles have existed in the past with flown hardware. I know many are in development, but I'm looking only for the ones already flown, if there are any.


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Note that payload performance is often hard to compare apples-to-apples as different providers will use different reference orbits (200 km, 28 deg, vs 500 km SSO, etc).

Pegasus (US), Electron (US/NZ), Kaituozhe-2 (China), Kuaizhou-1A (China), and Hyperbola-1 (China), Shaviyt (Israel), and Safir (Iran) are currently operational in the sub 500 kg to LEO class.

The Japanese SS-520-4 has recently flown successfully, and is trying to become operational. The American Super Strypi attempted a launch that failed, but have talked about trying again.

Numerous others have been flown in the past in this small class range. Some, off the top of my head, include: The Scout family (US), Black Arrow (UK), Conestoga (only a larger variant flew, unsuccessfully), Vanguard (intended to be the first US satellite launch, but failed), Juno (lofted first US satellite), VLS-1 (Brazil). I'm sure I'm missing another handful. Many of the early launches were smallish rockets.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. I do understand about the payload performance, but all rockets are defined with a payload class and a altitude limitation. Inclinations are usually more of a launch site constraint, if i have understood correctly. Also, I find that outside the US and EU, its hard to find information on rockets flown by other countries, so I felt that people on stack would be more aware. $\endgroup$
    – Rajath Pai
    Aug 15, 2019 at 8:04
  • $\begingroup$ @RajathPai - Actually, while inclination is a launch site constraint, it also is a major driver on performance. Can be as high as 30% or so. For instance take a look at page 8 of the Launcher 1 UG where they give performance to SSO and lower inclinations. For instance SSO 600 km is around 280 kg; 70 deg 600 km is around 350 kg. $\endgroup$
    – Carlos N
    Aug 15, 2019 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I do understand that some inclinations require some extra maneuvers that can possibly take more fuel which compromises on launch vehicle performance, but thank you for the information. Launcher One has the air launch advantage that most launch sites dont and that is Inclination. Air launches in general can launch into particular inclinations due to the flexibility offered by the aircraft carrier, so it doesn't surprise me at all. $\endgroup$
    – Rajath Pai
    Aug 16, 2019 at 6:17

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