In aerospace engineering, payload fraction is a common term used to characterize the efficiency of a particular design. Payload fraction is calculated by dividing the weight of the payload by the takeoff weight of aircraft. Fuel represents a considerable amount of the overall takeoff weight, and for shorter trips it is quite common to load less fuel in order to carry a lighter load. For this reason the useful load fraction calculates a similar number, but based on the combined weight of the payload and fuel together.
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For spacecraft the payload fraction is often less than 1%, while the useful load fraction is perhaps 90%. In this case the useful load fraction is not a useful term, because spacecraft typically cannot reach orbit without a full fuel load. For this reason the related term propellant mass fraction, is used instead. However, if the latter is large, the payload can only be small.
|Vehicle||Takeoff Mass||Final Mass||Mass ratio||Payload fraction|
|Ariane 5 (vehicle + payload)||746,000 kg (~1,645,000 lb)||2,700 kg + 16,000 kg (~6,000 lb + ~35,300 lb)||39.9||2.506%|
|SpaceX Starship (vehicle + payload)||4,400,000 kg (9,700,000 lb)||85,000 kg (187,000 lb) + 100,000 kg (220,000 lb)||18.7||5.341%|
|SpaceX Starship (payload only)||4,400,000 kg (9,700,000 lb)||100,000 kg (220,000 lb)||29.3||3.409%|
|Soyuz-2.1b||312,000 kg||8,200 kg||38.05||2.63%|
|Soyuz-2.1a||312,000 kg||7,020 kg||44.444||2.25%|
|Saturn V||3,038,500 kg (~6,700,000 lb)||13,300 kg + 118,000 kg (~29,320 lb + ~260,150 lb)||23.1||4.33%|
|Space Shuttle (vehicle + payload)||2,040,000 kg (~4,500,000 lb)||104,000 kg + 28,800 kg (~230,000 lb + ~63,500 lb)||15.4||6.49%|
|Space Shuttle (payload only)||2,040,000 kg (~4,500,000 lb)||28,800 kg (~230,000 lb + ~63,500 lb)||70.83||1.41%|
|Skylon (vehicle + payload) - projected||345 tons||15 + 53||5.07||19.71%|
|Skylon (payload) - projected||345 tons||15||23||4.35%|
|Saturn 1B (stage only)||448,648 kg (989,100 lb)||41,594 kg (91,700 lb)||10.7||9.346%|
|Titan 23G first stage||117,020 kg (258,000 lb)||4,760 kg (10,500 lb)||24.6||4.065%|
|Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer||10,024.39 kg (22,100 lb)||1,678.3 kg (3,700 lb)||6.0||16.66%|
|V-2||13,000 kg (~28,660 lb) (12.8 ton)||3.85||25.97%|
|X-15||15,420 kg (34,000 lb)||6,620 kg (14,600 lb)||2.3||43.478%|
|Concorde||~181,000 kg (400,000 lb )||2||50%|
|Boeing 747||~363,000 kg (800,000 lb)||2||50%|
|Lunar Module Descent stage||15,200 kg||6,845 kg||2.22||45.03%|
|Lunar Module Ascent stage||4,780 kg||2405 kg||1.9875||50.31%|
Note: the above table may incorrectly include the mass of the empty upper stage or stages.
- Astronautix- Ariane 5g
- "Making Life Multiplanetary: Abridged transcript of Elon Musk's presentation to the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia" (PDF). SpaceX. September 2017.
- spacexcmsadmin (2019-09-27). "Starship". SpaceX. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
- "SOYUZ-2 Launch Vehicle / Power Characteristics". JSC SRC Progress. Retrieved 2015-08-20.
- Astronautix - Saturn V
- Skylon user's manual
- Astronautix- Saturn IB
- AIAA2001-4619 RLVs
- Lunar module