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If the current Blue Origin New Shepard were modified as little as possible to work as the first stage of a two-stage rocket, what would be its maximal LEO payload?

To put it in other words: out of all the orbital launchers' first stages, which is the most similar to New Shepard?

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  • $\begingroup$ Any old second stage or did you have one mind? It makes a difference, you know. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jan 14 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ So, basically, you want to know what the capabilities of a hypothetical modified version of New Shepard that only exists in your imagination sitting atop a hypothetical booster that only exists in your imagination are? How would anybody except yourself be able to answer that question? $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ I think the question is, if the current Blue Shepard would modified the least possible to work as the first stage of a two-stage rocket, what could be its maximal LEO payload. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Jan 14 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ No, I said if the New Shepard would be used as first stage, not as second stage, but now I edited and I used the words suggested by peterh, maybe it is more clear like this $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Jan 14 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD: I said first stage, not second stage, and If I would know any that is similar to New Shepard then I would specifically have asked: "Is there a first stage more similar than X? " $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Jan 14 at 18:29
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As far as I know, there is no second stage that could reach orbit from a New Shepard, even disregarding the issue of size. It would need to very nearly be a SSTO. The Falcon 9 is well known for staging early, this being part of what makes it feasible to recover its booster, and for ASDS landings its booster is about 150 km downrange and moving at around 2 km/s when it crosses 100 km altitude, where New Shepard reaches a vertical peak at effectively zero velocity.

More realistically, you could use two or more stages. The SS-520-5 rocket is about the right size, you'd increase its 4 kg payload a bit by giving it a boost with a New Shepard (making 4 stages in total). Vacuum-optimized engines could improve things a bit more, but that's roughly the order of magnitude you're looking at.

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  • $\begingroup$ SS-520-5 has 2.6 tons. By the way, what is the max payload capacity the New Shepard can lift to 100 km? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Jan 15 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ Blue Origin hasn't said, as far as I'm aware. Third party estimates I've seen are in the area of 3 tons dry mass for the capsule (there's not much to the capsule, compared to an orbital vehicle). It could lift the mass of a SS-520-5, two would probably be too much. $\endgroup$ Jan 15 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ what happens if you put a 10 tons capsule on top of the New Shepard. Assuming it won't break or collapse, how high it would get? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Jobs
    Jan 16 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ I doubt it'll break or collapse, New Shepard isn't built nearly as lightly as actual launch vehicles. It wouldn't reach as high, but the impact would depend on mass figures that can only be guessed at. But even the unrealistic best case of 100 km altitude isn't very good. $\endgroup$ Jan 19 at 17:25

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