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  • A two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle is a spacecraft in which two distinct stages provide propulsion consecutively in order to achieve orbital velocity. It is intermediate between a three-stage-to-orbit launcher and a hypothetical single-stage-to-orbit launcher. At liftoff the first stage is responsible for accelerating the vehicle. At some point the second stage detaches from the first stage and continues to orbit under its own power. An advantage of such a system over single-stage-to-orbit is that the entire mass of the spacecraft is not carried into orbit. This reduces the difficulty involved in reaching orbital velocity. An advantage over three or more stages is reduction in complexity and fewer separation events, each of which reduces cost and risk of failure.

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