Home Technology Hillers Air Tug World’s Biggest Helicopter To Catch Rockets

Hillers Air Tug World’s Biggest Helicopter To Catch Rockets


Hiller Aircraft Company was founded in 1942 as Hiller Industries by Stanley Hiller to develop helicopters.A giant helicopter, with a rotor diameter bigger than the length of a football field. It would be capable not only of transporting a Saturn five S-1C first stage to the launch site – but of actually catching it in midair as it fell on a parachute – ready to be reused.

source/image: Escape Velocity

Today on our new space channel, we will be covering one of my favorite, yet unkown, insane plans, an aircraft built to play catch with a moon rocket – the Hillers Air Tug. It was monstrous huge, with a rotor diameter over 400 feet, or 120 meters for our European friends.

source/image: Escape Velocity

This size would have a huge eight of 450,000 pounds (200,000 kilograms) and with his huge rotors, be able to carry 550,000 pounds (250,000 kilograms) – a total, for those playing along at home, with a gross weight of 1 million pounds – impressive ideed. According to Hiller, it was technically not a helicopter but rather a Rotary Wing System for Booster Recovery – but if it looks like a helicopter and goes woom woom woom like a helicopter – then it is, with the added nick name the Air Tug.


When the rocket was fired, the helicopter would take to the skies from a nearby airbase. It would fly to the zone that the booster, the S-1C, would land, and lotier in the area for up to six hours with its large fuel tanks – hovering at around 15,000 to 20,000 feet (4,500–6,000 meters).

When the booster seperated and began its decent,it would deploy a sort of double tandum parachut, the upper section would have a hook. The air tug would approach the decending rocket, and meet it at around 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). At this point the rocket would be descending along a glide path with more forawrd than doward velocity, making it perfect for a intercept by the helicopter.

SOURCEEscape Velocity
Previous article1950 Mercury 2 Door “Maximus” Lead Sled Crazy Custom
Next articleLutetium Element The Most Expensive Rare-Earth Metal