The Saturn V had 5 engines (F-1) on the first stage, five engines on the second stage (J-2). The N-1 had 30 engines on its first stage (NK-15).

The Falcon 9 (1.0 and 1.1) have 9 Merlin 1 engines on the first stage. (Merlin 1C on F9 1.0, and Merlin 1D on F9 1.1).

Are there any stages on other launchers with more than 9, or even close to 9 engines? (Not in design phase, but metal bent, and possibly an attempt at a launch. Can't ask for success since that kicks out the N-1, just an attempt will make me happy).

I cannot think of any currently launching, but in the past? How would I count the Falcon Heavy with 27 engines firing at liftoff? I think like I would count a Atlas V 551 with 5 GEM Solid rockets firing, as not counting as on a single stage. Same as Energia with 4 strapon Zenit boosters would not really count. Energia would thus have had 4 engines on the first stage.

  • 4
    Doesn't fit your requirements since it never was more than a concept and no metal was ever bent for it, so just as a tidbit from history; Some earlier Von Braun's Ferry Rocket designs used up to 52 first stage engines. If we add up to 12 vernier thrusters using rather large nozzles to that, they would display up to a total of 64 engines beneath its aft skirt. – TildalWave Sep 22 '14 at 0:20
  • Concerning proposed massive clusters: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OTRAG_%28rocket%29 – Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Nov 11 '14 at 18:38
up vote 14 down vote accepted

The Jupiter-C and Juno second stage was a cluster of 11 (!) solid rockets.

enter image description here

Depending on what you're willing to count, the R-7 & Soyuz launcher family have 20 thrust chambers going at launch -- 16 on strap-on boosters, 4 in the sustainer core. (Each cluster of 4 chambers shares one set of fuel pumps, etc., so it comes down to whether you define that as 5 engines or 20.)

enter image description here

  • @RusselBorogove Soyuz is 5, not 20. But boy does that look impressive! :) Great images, thanks for sprucing up that answer! – geoffc Nov 11 '14 at 18:57
  • Add 12 Verniers pointing roughly in the same direction! – SF. Nov 30 '17 at 14:52

As far as I know, SpaceX holds the record. The Saturn 1B takes second place with 8 engines. Everything else I know off has smaller numbers. The Delta has up to 9 boosters, but they would not all fire simultaneously so you could argue those amount to 2 stages.

(shows you what I know, @Russell has found the winner)

  • And I do not like to count SRB/GEM strapons anyway. – geoffc Sep 22 '14 at 16:27
  • @geoffc don't forget the Saturn 1 had 8 engines on its first stage too. Then Saturn 1B had 8, then Saturn 5 had 5. Go figure. – DrZ214 Jul 24 '15 at 21:12

Almost, not quite:

Black Arrow - UK satellite launcher (1 success in 3 launches) had 8 "Stentor" engines in the first stage plus what appear to be two significant sized gas generator exhausts. The two exhausts would definitely have added small but measurable thrust. Whether you count them as 'engines' is up to you (but I suspect that you won't :-)).

Utterly superb Black Arrow page

Here is a hot end view of the 1st stage of the successful launcher, with engines.

Before:

enter image description here

Very much larger and nicely detailed version here

After:

enter image description here

Very much larger and nicely detailed version here

I hope to get to visit it sometime this lifetime, but may not manage. I've been within about 100 miles but the last 100 miles is a no-no-no for rental camper vans (and my wife also had some thoughts on the subject). Next time.

  • That was one engine with 8 thrust chambers – JCRM Oct 23 '17 at 7:26
  • @JCRM It's not quite that simple (as I imagine you realise). That is the way the engines are often referred to, but that gives the impression that you effectively have a monolithic unit with all chambers performing as one. A better decription (IMHO :-) ) is 8 engines arranged in 4 pairs with a high degree of commonality / shared components between the engines. eg there were only two turbopumps. The 4 pairs of engines/chambers were gimballed and controlled independent of each other. ... . ... – Russell McMahon Oct 26 '17 at 12:33
  • My previously referenced detailed image gives a fair idea of how integrated the 8 engines chambers were and weren't. – Russell McMahon Oct 26 '17 at 12:33

The OTRAG rockets, with von Braun involved until his death, apparently fired off at least one rocket with 12 engines, and had plans using the same basic hardware to build a 1 metric ton to orbit rocket with 64 engines, 48 in the 1st stage, 12 in the 2nd, and 4 in the 3rd. All were mounted in parallel with each stage peeling off after firing.

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