Grand Central Rocket Company "Starlifter"
Grand Central Rocket Company (GCRC) introduced their line of Starlifter-class spaceships early in 1980 to compete with Consolidated Astronautics’ VX-10. GCRC had been producing rockets for military and research applications since the early 1950s, but the Starlifter was the company’s first commercial spaceship model. The Starlifter relied on a gaseous core nuclear fission rocket engine similar to the one used by the VX-10, but used a different hull design to increase both fuel tankage and payload capacity. Rather than use a tapered hull shape, the Starlifter adopted the simple “cylinder with a cone atop” design now common to many modern spaceships. The simplified design combined with the use of advanced robotic manufacturing techniques made the Starlifter cheaper to produce than its rival. The drawback came in the ship’s atmospheric handling. The Starlifter entered planetary atmospheres at a higher angle of attack, giving it a lower cross-range and lesser margin for error on landings than the more aerodynamic VX-10. Despite this apparent shortcoming, the Starlifter was a great success and helped establish GCRC as major manufacturer of commercial spaceliners. Although GCRC halted production of the Starlifter in 1992, both the China Astronautics Bureau and Bisbee Engineering Company continue to manufacture Starlifters under license from GCRC.