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The Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7, carrying astronaut John Glenn, was launched on an Atlas rocket.

Atlas is a family of U.S. space launch vehicles. The original Atlas missile was designed in the late 1950s. It was a liquid-fuel rocket burning LOX and RP-1 in three engines configured in an unusual "stage-and-a-half" or "Parallel Staging" design: two of its three engines were jettisoned during ascent, but its fuel tanks and other structural elements were retained. Various Atlas II models were launched 63 times between 1991 and 2004. There were only 6 launches of the Atlas III, all between 2000 and 2005. The Atlas V is still in service, with launches planned through 2011.

Contents

Atlas family evolution

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Atlas missile

The first successful test launch of an SM-65 Atlas missile was on December 17, 1957.[1] Approximately 350 Atlas missiles were built. Many were eventually converted to orbital launch vehicles after they were removed from service as missiles. Missiles converted into Atlas E/F "space boosters" were used to launch the early "Block I" GPS satellites.[2]

Early Atlas rockets were also built specifically for non-military uses. On December 18, 1958, an Atlas was used to launch the Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment (SCORE) satellite, which was, "The first prototype of a communications satellite, and the first test of any satellite for direct practical applications."[3][4] The satellite broadcast President Eisenhower’s pre-recorded Christmas message around the world.

Atlas boosters were also used for four manned Project Mercury missions, the first US manned space program. On February 20, 1962 it launched Friendship 7, which made three earth orbits carrying John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth. Identical Atlas boosters successfully launched three more manned Mercury orbital missions in 1962-63.

Beginning in 1960 the Agena upper-stage, powered by hypergolic fuel, was used extensively on Atlas launch vehicles. The United States Air Force, NRO and CIA used them to launch SIGINT satellites.[5] NASA used them in the Ranger program to obtain the first close-up images of the surface of the Moon and for Mariner 2, the first spacecraft to fly by another planet. Each of the Agena target vehicles used for space rendezvous missions was launched on an Atlas rocket.

Beginning in 1963 the LH2-fueled Centaur upper stage was also used on dozens of Atlas launches. NASA launched the Surveyor program lunar lander spacecraft and most of the Mars-bound Mariner program spacecraft with Atlas-Centaur launch vehicles.

Atlas A

Atlas B

Atlas C

Atlas D

The Atlas was originally fielded as an ICBM in the late 1950s. On Oct. 31, 1959, the first Atlas, a D model stored horizontally, was placed on alert at Vandenberg AFB by the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron.

Atlas E

Atlas E and F models were the first ICBMs to be stored vertically in underground silos and raised by elevators to an above-ground position for launch. The Air Force replaced the Atlas ICBMs with Titan ICBMs and converted the E and F models into space launch vehicles in the late 1960s.

Atlas F

Used to launch the Block I series of GPS satellites from 1978 to 1985. The last refurbished Atlas vehicle was launched from Vandenberg AFB in 1995 carrying a satellite for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.

Launch vehicles

Atlas-Vega

Atlas-Able

SLV-3 Atlas

Atlas-Agena

The Atlas-Agena design was used for 119 orbital launches between 1960 and 1978.[6]. Atlas-Agena vehicles were used to launch a number of Missile Defense Alarm System satellites from 1961 to 1963, seven Canyon satellites between 1968 and 1977 and a number of KH-7 reconnaissance satellites from 1963 to 1967, as well as a number of Missile Defense Alarm System satellites.

Atlas-Agenas were also used to launch Agena target vehicles for several Gemini missions.

Atlas-Centaur

Atlas Centaur/LV-3C
Atlas Centaur/SLV-3C
Atlas Centaur SLV-3D

Atlas H

Atlas G

Atlas I

The first flight of an Atlas I launched the CRRES satellite on July 25, 1990.[7]

Atlas II

Atlas evolution.

In May 1988, the Air Force chose General Dynamics (now Lockheed-Martin) to develop the Atlas II. The first Atlas II launch placed a Eutelsat satellite into geostationary orbit on 1991-12-07.

Atlas IIA

Atlas IIAS

Atlas III

Atlas IIIA

The Atlas III was used between 2000 and 2005. Atlas III was the first member of the Atlas family to use "normal" staging. Its first stage used a single RD-180 engine.

Atlas IIIB

Atlas V

The Atlas V is built in Denver, Colorado by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Future production will be shifted to Decatur, Alabama. The first Atlas V launch was on August 21, 2002.

Atlas V Heavy

References

External links


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