In the post-credits scene of the first season finale of the 2019 series For All Mankind, which takes place in 1983, the gigantic Sea Dragon Rocket is depicted launching from the Pacific Ocean to resupply the US lunar colony. Obviously, this is a fictional depiction. But was it based on a real event? Did the Sea Dragon launch really happen? Let's find out!
Was the Sea Dragon Rocket Launch Real?
No, the Sea Dragon was never a reality. The concept design existed and what was proposed was pretty impressive.
Sea Dragon Rocket was an ambitious project of Aerojet led by Robert Truax., a U.S. Navy captain and rocket engineer. Its purpose was to be a super heavy-lift rocket that could carry 1.2 million pounds (550 metric tons) into low Earth orbit. In spite of the interest from both NASA and Todd Shipyards, the project was not implemented. If it had happened, the huge Sea Dragon Rocket would have been the largest rocket ever built. With dimensions of 150 m (490 ft) long and 23 m (75 ft) in diameter, it would have lifted the equivalent of one International Space Station into low-earth orbit in one mission. That's impressive in itself.
How Much Did it Cost?
Aerojet General summed up the result of the Sea Dragon study as follows:
In general, the study has confirmed that large, simple, recoverable vehicles can be highly effective from a cost standpoint. A total system development cost of $2.836 billion is forecast. The direct flight-related cost is $10 to $20 per pound of payload. Amortizing the research and development cost over 240 flights gives total cost-effectiveness of $20 to $30 per pound of payload. No elements of the original concept have been shown to be technically unfeasible; however, the technical feasibility of a completely passive recovery system has not been demonstrated.
These figures are all in 1962 dollars. Citizens in Space analyzed that the price of building a modern Sea Dragon Rocket would be $22 billion in modern dollars.