Battle of the heavy lift rockets

Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space cover

After being in print for twenty years, the Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space, covering everything that was learned on every single space mission in the 20th century, has finally gone out of print.

I presently have my last four hardback copies available for sale. The book sold new for about $90. To get your own autographed copy of this now rare collector's item, please send a $120 check (which includes shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

"Useful to space buffs and generalists, comprehensive but readable, Bob Zimmerman's Encyclopedia belongs front and center on everyone's bookshelf." -- Mike Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut


"The Chronological Encylopedia of Discoveries in Space is no passionless compendium of information. Robert Zimmerman's fact-filled reports, which cover virtually every spacecraft or probe to have ventured into the heavens, relate the scientific and technical adventure of space exploration enthusiastically and with authority." -- American Scientist

Check out this very detailed and informative look at unstated competiton between NASA’s SLS rocket and SpaceX’s heavy lift rocket plans that are even more powerful than the Falcon Heavy.

Key quote: “It is clear SpaceX envisions a rocket far more powerful than even the fully evolved Block 2 SLS – a NASA rocket that isn’t set to be launched until the 2030s.”

The SpaceX rocket hinges on whether the company can successfully build its new Raptor engine. If they do, they will have their heavy lift rocket in the air and functioning far sooner than NASA, and for far far far less money.



  • DK Williams

    Why reinvent the wheel? Reopen the Saturn V production lines if a heavy lift vehicle is needed. It’s not reusable, but I have grave doubts that mega-rockets could be made reliably reusable anyway.

  • Those Saturn 5 production lines don’t exist any more. They were shut down in the mid-1970s and are long gone, with many of the individuals who worked on them long retired or even deceased. In addition, the companies that built the Saturn 5 are also long gone.

    Moreover, the technology has changed. NASA tried to resurrect the J2 upper stage Saturn 5 engine for SLS and after spending billions on it mothballed it because they found it to be “overpowered.”

  • DK Williams

    Thanks for the update, Bob. One would think NASA would have kept copies of all schematics and production plans given that they paid a vast sum to these companies. Oh well…

  • It is not simply a matter of having schematics and production plans. You need the right kind of factories and, as you said, production lines. Those don’t exist anymore. You have to retool and rebuild everything.

    Far cheaper to start from scratch, as SpaceX has done, using the knowledge gained in the past combined with the technology and engineering of the present, to make something new and cutting edge.

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