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Posted 7/8/2009 Printable Fact Sheet

The Atlas Family of Space Vehicles (Aug. 5, 1960)

Atlas Series D: Air Force ICBM, used as booster for space vehicles. Range over 6,300 miles; length 75 feet, diameter 10 ft., take off weight approximately 260,000 lb., take off thrust 360,000 lb. The Convair-built Atlas can boost itself into orbit (as it did Dec. 18, 1958).

Mercury: Manned space capsule. Overall Length 94 ft. 6 in. McDonnell Aircraft Corp. capsule comprises the separable payload. Capsule length 10 ft., diameter 6 ft. 7 in. The overall length of payload structure, including jettisonable escape rocket boom is 25 ft.

Atlas: Able: Space probe. Overall length 99 ft. 4 in., Aerojet liquid propellant second stage; Allegheny Ballistic Laboratory Spin Stabilized solid propellant third stage. Space technology laboratories provides the payload (with injection rocket). Upper stage length (above Atlas booster) 32 ft. 2 in.

Atlas: Agena: General purpose space vehicle for military or scientific missions. Combines Atlas booster with Lockheed second stage, powered by Bell Aircraft "Hustler" liquid propellant engine. Overall length 88 ft. 2 in., upper stage length 21 ft. 8 in. and diameter 6 ft., (in the Project Midas configuration). Midas is a satellite system employing infra red sensors for the early detection of enemy ICBM's; Project SAMOS (formerly Sentry) is a satellite reconnaissance system.

Atlas: Centaur: The first U.S. High Energy General Purpose Space Vehicle. Overall length 107 ft. 8 in. Convair second stage, with liquid oxygen & liquid hydrogen engines by Pratt & Whitney; length 25 ft., diameter 10 ft.

The Strategic Air Command's first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was the Convair B-65 "Atlas" (later redesignated SM-65). The Atlas became operational in 1959. Because of the vulnerability of the Atlas while above ground, an underground silo was developed. An elevator raised it to ground-level for launching. While on alert duty, the Atlas missile was maintained in the fully raised (above ground) position since it could not be launched from its underground silo. The silo was only for protection from enemy attack. The Atlas ICBM could deliver a nuclear warhead more than 6,300 miles from its launch site. Phased out in 1965, the Atlas still served as a first stage booster for USAF and NASA space projects including several Mercury manned space flights.

The museum has an Atlas missile in storage awaiting restoration before being placed in the Missile & Space Gallery. The museum has some Atlas related items on display, including a Mercury space capsule and an Agena A upper stage space vehicle.

Type Number built/
B-65 - Became SM-65 (Strategic Missile)

Armament: Nuclear warhead on ICBM, none on scientific or Mercury flights
Engines (ICBM/Atlas D): Two Rocketdyne LR105-NA strap-on boosters and one Rocketdyne LR89-NA-3, plus two small vernier rockets for attitude correction (steering)
Engine thrust at launch: 360,000 lbs.
Maximum speed: Orbital velocity of about 17,500 mph (approx. 16,000 mph as an ICBM)
Range: Over 6,300 miles as an ICBM (the Atlas D could achieve orbit)
Maximum altitude: Varied by orbital track (approx. 900 miles as an ICBM)
Diameter: 10 ft. (not including strap-on boosters)
75 ft. 10 in. (85 ft. 6 in. in ICBM configuration)
Weight: 260,000 lbs. maximum at launch
Crew: None (One on Atlas Mercury)

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