Nova was a series of proposed rocket designs, originally as NASA's first large launchers for missions similar to the production-level Saturn V. During a series of post-Apollo studies in the 1960s, considerations for a manned mission to Mars revealed the need for boosters much larger than Apollo's. Thus, a new series of designs with as many as eight Rocketdyne F-1 engines were developed under the Nova name (along with the Saturn MLV). In some cases, "Nova" didn't refer to a specific rocket design, but was rather used as an expression for a rocket larger than the Saturn V. However, attention was then given to the Saturn C-5 as the best option for Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR). Studies on the Nova series continued into 1962 as a backup for Saturn.
As the Apollo program continued, NASA designers started looking into the concept of a manned mission to Mars. The Saturn V was far too small, so a second series of Nova design studies were conducted for launchers of up to 1,000,000 pounds (450,000 kg) delivered to low Earth orbit. Unlike the original Nova series which was designed by NASA, new designs were studied by major aerospace companies who did not receive major Apollo-related contracts, namely: General Dynamics and Martin Marietta. Philip Bono at Douglas Aircraft is even said to have sent unsolicited proposals. All of the companies involved had submitted a wide variety of designs. The official reason for NASA abandoning its Nova plans in 1964, was due to a decrease in post-Apollo funding.