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Rocketdyne LR79

DAYTON, Ohio -- Rocketdyne LR79 on display in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Rocketdyne LR79 on display in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Rocketdyne LR79 on display in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Rocketdyne LR79 on display in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An LR79 lifts a Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) in a test launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo).

An LR79 lifts a Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) in a test launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo).

A Rocketdyne LR79 (S-3D) engine ignites during a Jupiter test launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1960. Note the coating of frost around the missile’s center, caused by cold liquid oxygen. (U.S. Air Force photo).

A Rocketdyne LR79 (S-3D) engine ignites during a Jupiter test launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1960. Note the coating of frost around the missile’s center, caused by cold liquid oxygen. (U.S. Air Force photo).


The LR79 rocket engine was a reliable workhorse for U.S. Air Force space and missile launches between 1958 and 1980. Variants of this liquid-fueled engine powered Jupiter and Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs), Juno II satellite boosters, and Saturn I and IB rockets used in the Apollo, Skylab, and Apollo-Soyuz programs. The LR79 was also known by its civilian designation S-3/S-3D.

Rocketdyne developed the engine in 1955-56 for the U.S. Army. In 1956, Jupiter became an important Air Force missile when the USAF gained responsibility for all ballistic missiles with ranges of more than 200 miles. An LR79 engine powered a Jupiter on the first successful American IRBM test flight on May 3, 1957. In 1959, a Jupiter rocket took two monkeys named Able and Baker on a 16-minute sub-orbital ride to an altitude of 300 miles, a prelude to human spaceflight.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
Thrust:
150,000–205,000 lbs. (depending on model)
Weight: 1,417–2,003 lbs. (depending on model)
Turbopump speed: 3,950–6,717 rpm (depending on model)
Propellants: RP-1 (kerosene) and liquid oxygen
Propellant flow: About 3,400 gallons liquid oxygen and 2,100 gallons kerosene per minute (depending on model)

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Chrysler SM-78/PGM-19A Jupiter
Douglas SM-75/PGM-17A Thor
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