Rockets of Today

— the shuttle era, 1977–2007 —

This is the era when spaceflight started to become commercialized, though the building of launch vehicles was almost always still a government job. Some of the more successful rocket families of the period remain in heavy use, particularly the Shuttle’s European rival, the Ariane, which was the first, though far from the last, rocket developed by a government initiative for the explicit purpose of serving the commercial market. The Russians developed their own modernized commercially-oriented rocket in the Zenit, which may become the basis for some future models in their lineup, and converted military missiles to commercial use with the START and the Rokot. Japan developed a commercially viable rocket with the H series, and India did likewise with their PSLV and GSLV, with remarkable success.

Israel got a toe into space with the little Shavit — the first small country to do so. In America, Orbital Sciences, later known as Orbital ATK and now part of Northrop Grumman, developed the first entirely private small rockets for the commercial market: the Pegasus, and then the Taurus / Minotaur series.

After 1994 there was a long dry spell where no new rockets arose to challenge the leaders of the time. Launch numbers per year declined as the end of the cold war reduced military activity. 2004 and 2005 saw barely over fifty launches each, worldwide. But the Shavit and the Pegasus would prove to be harbingers — precursors of the rocketry boom to come.

— Rockets included with current filters: · Ariane · Zenit (Irtysh, Yenisei) · H · Shavit · Pegasus · PSLV, GSLV · START · Minotaur · Rokot —