Atlas V: Wikis


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Atlas V
Launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, 11:43:00 am GMT August 12, 2005 on the first Atlas V rocket used by NASA. The rocket is in the 401 configuration.
Launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, 11:43:00 am GMT August 12, 2005 on the first Atlas V rocket used by NASA. The rocket is in the 401 configuration.
Function EELV/Medium-heavy launch vehicle
Manufacturer United Launch Alliance
Country of origin United States
Height 58.3 m (191.2 ft)
Diameter 3.81 m (12.49 ft)
Mass 546,700 kg (1,205,200 lb)
Stages 2
Payload to LEO 9,750–29,420 kg [1] (21,490–64,860 lb)
Payload to
4,750–13,000 kg [1] (10,470–28,660 lb)
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites SLC-41, Cape Canaveral
SLC-3E, Vandenberg AFB
Total launches 20
(401: 10, 411: 2, 421: 3, 431: 2)
(521: 2, 551: 1)
Successes 19
(401: 9, 411: 2, 421: 3, 431: 2)
(521: 2, 551: 1)
Partial failures 1 (401)[2]
Maiden flight 401: 21 August 2002
411: 20 April 2006
421: 10 October 2007
431: 11 March 2005
521: 17 July 2003
551: 19 January 2006
Notable payloads Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
New Horizons
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Solar Dynamics Observatory
Boosters (Not Heavy) - Aerojet
No boosters 1 to 5 (see text)
Engines 1 Solid
Thrust 1,270 kN (285,500 lbf)
Specific impulse 275 seconds
Burn time 94 seconds
Fuel Solid
Boosters (Atlas V Heavy (5HX)) - Atlas CCB
No boosters 2
Engines 1 RD-180
Thrust 4,152 kN (933,406 lbf)
Specific impulse 311 seconds
Burn time 253 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
First stage - Atlas CCB
Engines 1 RD-180
Thrust 4,152 kN (933,400 lbf)
Specific impulse 311 seconds
Burn time 253 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Second stage (Atlas V XX1) - Centaur
Engines 1 RL10A
Thrust 99.2 kN (22,300 lbf)
Specific impulse 451 seconds
Burn time 842 seconds
Fuel LH2/LOX
Second stage (Atlas V XX2) - Centaur
Engines 2 RL10A
Thrust 147 kN (41,600 lbf)
Specific impulse 449 seconds
Burn time 421 seconds
Fuel LH2/LOX

Atlas V is an active expendable launch system in the Atlas rocket family. Atlas V was formerly operated by Lockheed Martin, and is now operated by the Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture United Launch Alliance. Each Atlas V rocket uses a Russian-built RD-180 engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen to power its first stage and an American-built RL10 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to power its Centaur upper stage. The RD-180 engines are provided by RD AMROSS and the RL10 engines by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Some configurations also use strap-on booster rockets made by Aerojet. The payload fairings, which can be 4 or 5 meters in diameter and three lengths, are made by Contraves. The rocket is assembled in Decatur, Alabama; Harlingen, Texas; San Diego, California; and at ULA's headquarters near Denver, Colorado.[3]

In its 20 launches, from its maiden launch in August 2002 to February 2010, Atlas V has had a near-perfect success rate. On one flight, NRO L-30 on June 15, 2007, an upper-stage anomaly occurred when the engine in the vehicle's Centaur upper stage shut down early, leaving the payload—a pair of ocean surveillance satellites—in a lower than intended orbit.[4] However, the customer, the National Reconnaissance Office, categorized the mission as a success.[5][6] Atlas V has made ten successful flights since the anomaly.



The Atlas V is the newest member of the Atlas family, and is a direct descendant of the previous Atlas II and especially the Atlas III vehicles. Most propulsion, avionic and structural elements are either identical to or straightforward derivations of those used on the previous vehicles.

The most obvious external change is to the first stage tanks, which no longer use 10-foot-diameter, stainless steel monocoque, common intermediate bulkhead "balloon" construction. The "1.5 staging" technique was also dropped in order to use a 12.5-foot-diameter welded aluminum alloy construction first stage, much like that of the Titan family of vehicles or the Space Shuttle external tank.

The Atlas V was developed by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services as part of the US Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The term expendable launch vehicle means each vehicle is only used once. Launches are from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Space Launch Complex 3-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services continues to market the Atlas V to commercial customers worldwide.[7]

The first Atlas V was launched on August 21, 2002. Twelve Atlas V launches to date have been successful[citation needed] except for the 2007 anomaly. The Atlas V family uses a single-stage Atlas main engine, the Russian RD-180 and the newly developed Common Core Booster (CCB) with up to five Aerojet made strap-on solid rocket boosters. The CCB is 12.5 ft (3.8 m) in diameter by 106.6 ft (32.5 m) long and uses 627,105 lb (284,450 kg) of liquid oxygen and RP-1 rocket fuel propellants. The booster operates for about four minutes, providing about 4 meganewtons (860,000 lbf) of thrust at start, the major part of this thrust, 4.152 meganewtons being provided by Russian RD-180 engine.

The Centaur upper stage uses a pressure stabilized propellant tank design and cryogenic propellants. The Centaur stage for Atlas V is stretched 5.5 ft (1.68 m) and is powered by either one or two Pratt & Whitney RL10A-4-2 engines, each engine developing a thrust of 99.2 kN (22,300 lbf). Operational and reliability upgrades are enabled with the RL10A-4-2 engine configuration. The inertial navigation unit (INU) located on the Centaur provides guidance and navigation for both Atlas and Centaur, and controls both Atlas and Centaur tank pressures and propellant use. The Centaur engines are capable of multiple in-space starts, making possible insertion into low-earth parking orbit, followed by a coast period and then insertion into GTO. A subsequent third burn following a multi-hour coast can permit direct injection of payloads into geostationary orbit. The Centaur vehicle has the highest proportion of burnable propellant relative to total mass of any modern upper stage and hence can deliver substantial payloads to a high energy state.[citation needed]

Many systems on the Atlas V have been the subject of upgrade and enhancement both prior to the first Atlas V flight and since that time. An upgrade to a Fault Tolerant INU (FTINU) was recently made to enhance mission reliability for Atlas vehicles.

On April 14, 2008, Atlas V lifted its heaviest payload to date into orbit—a 14,625-pound (6,634 kg) telecommunications satellite built by Space Systems/Loral.[8]


2007 valve anomaly

The only anomalous event in the use of the Atlas V launch system occurred June 15, 2007, when the engine in the Centaur upper stage of an Atlas V shut down early, leaving its payload — a pair of NRO L-30 ocean surveillance satellites — in a lower-than-intended orbit.[4] The cause of the anomaly was traced to a leaky valve. Replacing the valve led to a delay in the next Atlas V launch.[9]

Future developments

Atlas V HLV

The Atlas V HLV (Heavy Lift Vehicle) would use three CCB stages strapped together to provide the capability necessary to lift 25-metric-ton payload to LEO. Approximately 95% of the hardware required for the Atlas HLV has already been flown on the Atlas V single core vehicles.

A report, prepared by RAND Corporation for the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2006, stated that Lockheed Martin had decided not to develop an Atlas V heavy-lift vehicle.[10] The report recommended for the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office to "determine the necessity of an EELV heavy-lift variant, including development of an Atlas V Heavy", and to "resolve the RD-180 issue, including coproduction, stockpiling, or U.S. development of an RD-180 replacement."[11]

Lifting capability of the Atlas V HLV is roughly equivalent to the Delta IV Heavy. The latter utilizes RS-68 engines developed and produced domestically by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Delta IV Heavy has flown three times.

Starting from 2008, the Atlas V HLV configuration is available to customers 30 months from date of order.[12]

GX rocket

The Atlas V Common Core Booster will be used as the first stage of the joint US-Japanese GX rocket, which is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2012.[13] GX launches will be conducted from the Atlas V launch complex at Vandenberg AFB, SLC-3E.

In December 2009, Japanese government decided to cancel the GX project[14]. Developement of the LNG propulsion system will continue for other projects.


Each Atlas booster has a three-digit version designation that is determined by the features of the rocket. The first digit is the diameter (in meters) of the nosecone fairing, and is always either '4' or '5'. The second digit is the number of solid rocket boosters attached to the base of the rocket, and can number anywhere from '0' through '3' with the 4 m fairing and '0' through '5' with the 5 m fairing. The third digit is the number of engines on the Centaur stage, either '1' or '2'. As of 2009, only the single-engine Centaur (SEC) has been used, and no launches using a dual-engine Centaur (DEC) are currently planned.

For example, if the Atlas V version is 552, this means that the fairing is five meters, has five solid rocket boosters, and has two Centaur engines. If the Atlas V version is 431, this means that the fairing is four meters, has three solid rocket boosters, and has a single Centaur engine.

The Atlas V has two general payload fairing sizes. The classic 4-meter fairing, used since the Atlas II, comes in regular and slightly stretched versions (see AV-004/Inmarsat 4-F1 launch), and Lockheed Martin introduced a 5.4-meter (4.57 meters usable) payload fairing developed and built by Contraves Space (now Oerlikon Space [1]) in Switzerland. The Contraves fairing is a composite design and is based on flight proven hardware. Three configurations will be manufactured to support Atlas V. The short and medium length configurations will be used on the Atlas V 500 series. The long configuration will be used on the Atlas V-Heavy. The classic fairing covers only the payload, leaving the Centaur stage exposed to open air. With the Contraves fairing, the Centaur is enclosed within the fairing as well as the payload.

An agreement between Lockheed and Bigelow Aerospace in September 2006 could lead to a human-rated version of the Atlas V to tap into the potential space tourism market.[15]

Versions: List Date: February 11, 2009

Version Fairing Boosters Upper stage Payload to LEO Payload to GTO Launches to date
401 4 m - SEC - 4,951 kg 10
402 4 m - DEC 12,500 kg - 0
411 4 m 1 SEC - 5,951 kg 2
421 4 m 2 SEC - 6,832 kg 3
431 4 m 3 SEC - 7,642 kg 2
501 5.4 m - SEC - 3,971 kg 0
502 5.4 m - DEC 10,300 kg - 0
511 5.4 m 1 SEC - 5,271 kg 0
512 5.4 m 1 DEC 12,050 kg - 0
521 5.4 m 2 SEC - 6,287 kg 2
522 5.4 m 2 DEC 13,950 kg - 0
531 5.4 m 3 SEC - 7,202 kg 0
532 5.4 m 3 DEC 17,250 kg - 0
541 5.4 m 4 SEC - 7,982 kg 0
542 5.4 m 4 DEC 18,750 kg - 0
551 5.4 m 5 SEC - 8,672 kg 1
552 5.4 m 5 DEC 20,050 kg - 0
Heavy (HLV (5H1)) 5.4 m 2 CCB SEC - 13,605 kg 0
Heavy (HLV DEC (5H2)) 5.4 m 2 CCB DEC 25,000 kg - 0

Atlas V launches

List Date: November 23, 2009

# Date Type Serial-no. Startplace Payload Type of payload Orbit Outcome Remarks
1 August 21, 2002 401 AV-001 CC LC41 Hot Bird 6 Commercial communications satellite GSO Success First Atlas V launch
2 May 13 2003 401 AV-002 CC LC41 Hellas Sat 2 Commercial communications satellite GSO Success First satellite for Greece and Cyprus
3 July 17, 2003 521 AV-003 CC LC41 Rainbow 1 Commercial communications satellite GSO Success First Atlas V 500 launch
4 December 17, 2004 521 AV-005 CC LC41 AMC 16 Commercial communications satellite GSO Success [citation needed]
5 March 11, 2005 431 AV-004 CC LC41 Inmarsat 4-F1 Commercial communications satellite GSO Success
6 August 12, 2005 401 AV-007 CC LC41 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars orbiter Escape Success First Atlas V launch for NASA[citation needed]
7 January 19, 2006 551 AV-010 CC LC41 New Horizons Pluto and Kuiper Belt probe Escape Success Boeing Star 48B third stage used, first Atlas V launch with a third stage
8 April 20, 2006 411 AV-008 CC LC41 Astra 1KR Commercial communications satellite GSO Success Final Atlas commercial launch for ILS[citation needed]
9 March 8, 2007 401 AV-013 CC LC41 Space Test Program-1 6 military research satellites LEO Success FalconSAT-3
10 June 15, 2007 401 AV-009 CC LC41 NRO L-30R (NOSS-4-3A & B) Two NRO Reconnaissance satellites LEO Partial launch failure (Lower than intended orbit) First Atlas V flight for the National Reconnaissance Office
11 October 11, 2007 421 AV-011 CC LC41 WGS SV-1 Military communications satellite GTO Success Valve replacement[9]
12 December 10, 2007 401 AV-015 CCAFS SLC-41 NRO L-24 NRO reconnaissance satellite Molniya Success
13 March 13, 2008 411 AV-006 VAFB SLC-3E NROL-28 NRO reconnaissance satellite Molniya Success First Atlas V launch from Vandenberg
14 April 14, 2008 421 AV-014 CC LC-41 ICO G1 Commercial communications satellite GTO Success
Heaviest payload launched by an Atlas.
15 April 4, 2009 421 AV-016 CC LC-41 WGS SV2 Military communications satellite GTO Success
16 June 18, 2009 401 AV-020 CC SLC-41 LRO/LCROSS Lunar exploration HEO Success First Centaur stage to impact on the Moon.
17 September 8, 2009 401 AV-018 CCAFS SLC-41 PAN Military communications satellite[16] GTO[16] Success
18 October 18, 2009 401 AV-017 VAFB SLC-3E DMSP 5D3-F18 Military weather satellite LEO/S Success
19 November 23, 2009 431 AV-024 CCAFS SLC-41 Intelsat 14 Comsat GTO Success[17]
20 February 11, 2010 401 AV-021 CCAFS SLC-41 SDO Solar Observatory GTO Success
For planned launches, see:
List of Atlas V launches#Planned launches

Photo gallery

See also

Comparable rockets: Delta IVProtonAriane 5Chang Zheng 5GSLV Mk.IIIAngaraFalcon 9H-IIAH-IIBZenit


  1. ^ a b United Launch Alliance. "Atlas V Product Card" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Gunter's Space Page - Atlas V (401)
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Morring, Frank, Jr. (June 22, 2007). "NRO Shortfall May Delay Upcoming ULA Missions". Aviation Week. 
  5. ^ NRO (June 15, 2007). "NRO satellite successfully launched aboard Atlas V". Press release. 
  6. ^ NRO (June 18, 2007). "NROL-30 launch update". Press release. 
  7. ^ "Lockheed Martin Ready For Launch Of Intelsat 14 Spacecraft". Lockheed Martin. November 11, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Telecommunication Satellite Launches With Heavy Payload". Associated Press. April 14, 2008.,2933,351292,00.html. 
  9. ^ a b "Faulty valve pushes back Atlas 5 launch". Florida Today. 
  10. ^ (pdf) National Security Space Launch Report. RAND Corporation. 2006. p. 29. 
  11. ^ (pdf) National Security Space Launch Report. RAND Corporation. 2006. p. xxi. 
  12. ^ Atlas V EELV - Lockheed-Martin Retrieved on 2008-02-08
  13. ^ "GX Launch Vehicle". United Launch Alliance. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  14. ^ "Japan scraps GX rocket development project". iStockAnalyst. 2009-12-16. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  15. ^ Gaskill, Braddock (2007-01-31). "Human Rated Atlas V for Bigelow Space Station details emerge". 
  16. ^ a b "Clues about mystery payload emerge soon after launch". Spaceflight Now. September 8, 2009. 
  17. ^

Simple English

Atlas V is a type of rocket used by a company called United Launch Alliance to place satellites into orbit. It is 58.3 metres tall, and 3.81 metres wide. It has flown 12 times, since its first flight on 21 August 2002. Unlike the Space Shuttle, Atlas V is only used once, with a new rocket being built for each flight.


So far, Atlas V has made 12 flights:


There are many types of Atlas V, which can be changed for different spacecraft. The type of rocket is denoted by three numbers following the rocket's name. The first of these is either a four or a five, and is the width of the part of the rocket known as the fairing, where the satellite is stored. The second can be anything between zero and five, and gives the number of booster rockets used to increase the load the rocket can carry. The third is either a one or a two, and denotes the number of engines on the upper stage. For example, the Atlas V 401 has a four metre fairing, no booster rockets, and one engine on the upper stage, an Atlas V 552 has a five metre fairing, five boosters, and two engines on the upper stage.


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