3
$\begingroup$

Megaroc was an idea of a modified V2 rocket by the British Interplanetary society to launch a human into space. If it were built there could have been a human in space in 1948/1949. The reason it was not built is because the ministry declined the idea because of financial reasons (Also because of a lack of interest). My question is: How much would it have cost to build it?

$\endgroup$
4
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Since it seems to have been more of a concept than an actual design, we would be guessing a lot. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 7, 2022 at 20:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Given that the proposal was given to a government department it would be interesting to try to get a copy of the proposal under the British equivalent of freedom of information procedures. The proposal is bound to have included cost estimates, at the time. Modern day equivalent costs can be extrapolated from these using the Bank of England Inflation Calculator. Alternatively, one could analytically review the proposal with the idea of making a modern version & costing the proposal that way. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jul 8, 2022 at 5:05
  • $\begingroup$ @ Fred it would be interesting to see the price difference of back then and today. Maybe there is an even cheaper method of building it using newer technology $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2022 at 5:07
  • $\begingroup$ It would have been interesting to see how they would have approached the task of man-rating the V2... $\endgroup$
    – Digger
    Jul 8, 2022 at 14:39

1 Answer 1

3
$\begingroup$

The idea of scaling up a V2 and tweaking the design is not implausible: this is exactly what the Soviet R-2 did, and in fact the rough capacities are very similar (source for R-2): an 18m-tall missile weighing around 20 metric tons, with a payload of around 500kg. The R-2 tweaked the fuel rather than widening the rocket, and had a lower max altitude, but you can see the general similarities. It was later tweaked into the R-2A sounding rocket and flew research payloads, exactly as Megaroc was meant to, but by that point there was no motivation for crewed suborbital launches.

In practice I think there is a good argument that a simple V-2 derivative would not have worked for the planned flight - as you got into the fine details involved with having a person on top, the payload size would have crept up and you needed to develop a more advanced V-2 derivative like the Redstone - but it does suggest we're in the right range for what could reasonably be done in the late 1940s.

However, time and cost. R-1 (building their own copies of V-2s) took the USSR two years (1947-49), and while R-2 test flights started in 1949, it was not in service until 1951. So 48/49 is probably an ambitious estimate for a V-2 derived launcher, especially given the other constraints on the UK at that time. In addition, the Soviet program benefitted from a large amount of German hardware and rocketry specialists: the equivalent British program was much smaller scale.

Tracing a figure for how much the R-2 program cost - which would more or less answer your original question - is hard. I haven't yet been able to find one and honestly I would have big question marks about a meaningful cost value attached to a 1940s Soviet program. However, we can get an upper bound: Redstone. This was a much more ambitious project and Astronautix estimates $90m overall cost - call it £20 million, give or take (depending on whether the pound had devalued yet). On the other hand, this does not include the costs of the 'spacecraft' element, which would not have been cheap to develop...


Edit: digging around in Siddiqi's Challenge to Apollo (pdf) turns up the quite obscure Soviet VR-190 project from the 1940s: using a modified V-2 to launch two crew to 190km (hence the name). It was changed to a goal of launching dogs in 1948 and shut down in 1949. However, an independent project under Korolev in 1949-51 launched a series of dogs on R-1B missiles - very similar to the R-2 series - taking a payload of around 500kg to 100km. However, the two dogs flown were around 6-7kg each, and the container had an internal volume one-tenth that of a Mercury capsule, making it very unlikely it could have been reasonably scaled up to a person. (Siddiqi pp. 63-66, 92-97)

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.