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Atlas Centaur

by Jean-Jacques Serra
listing by Gunter Krebs

The Atlas Centaur launchers are the most powerful versions in the Atlas familly and the only to be used since 1995. They use the Centaur top-stage which was the first cryogenic rocket stage.

The Pratt & Whitney RL10 engine consuming liquid oxygen and hydrogen had a long and difficult development. Its design started in 1958. It first flew in 1962 but didn't launch a real payload before 1966. The Centaur stage was designed to be used by Atlas. It had the same diameter and was 9.1 m long. In its operational version it was equipped with two RL10 A-3-3 engines with a thrust of 66.7 kN each.

In the late-70ies the total height of the Atlas Centaur reached 40 m (originally 34 m) and its mass at launch increased from 132 to 150 tons. At this time the launch program was to be abandonned since NASA had decided to transfer all launches to the Shuttle. In fact STS was less available than expected and the Atlas launch program was resumed with a simplified motor: the RL10 A-3-3A with 73.4 kN thrust which first flew in 1984.

During its first activity period (see chart 6) the Atlas Centaur launched:
- probes to the Moon (Surveyor) and to other planets (Marnier, Pioneer)
- heavy scientific satellites ( OAO, HEAO)
- geostationary telecommunication satellites ( ATS, Intelsat, Comstar, Fleetsatcom)

In 1987 the augmented Atlas Centaur was selected by the USAF as the MLV2 standard launcher. This new launcher is refered to as Atlas-2 and the former version as Atlas-1. The basic Atlas-2 is an Atlas Centaur which has a 2.7 m longer first stage and a 0.9 m longer second stage. Furthermore the first stage is equipped with the new MA-5A motors. Atlas-2A is different by its second stage RL10 A-4 engines with deployable nozzle. Those rockets range from 45.6 to 47.5 m high and weigh 187 tons (Atlas-1 was 42-44 m high and weigh 164 tons).

Atlas-2AS is still more powerful. It is made from Atlas-2A to which two pairs of Castor-4A boosters of 436 kN thrust each are added. Each pair ignites one after the other. Thus Atlas-2AS weighs 234 tons and can deliver 3.6 tons in GTO compared to 2.7 and 2.9 tons for Atlas-2 and -2A, and 2.3 tons for Atlas-1.

Atlas Centaur rockets are optimized for geostationary orbit satellites.

Statistics


The RL-10 motor made its 100th flight on the top stage Centaur of AC-114

Atlas Centaur launches


# Launch id Payload Launch Date Site Type Status/Comment (orbit in perigee x apogee x inclination x period)
1, AC001 n/a suborbital test 08 May 1962 C LV3C C-A Failure because of collapse of payload shroud
2, AC002 63047 test 27 Nov 1963 C LV3C C-B 544 x 1699 x 30.3 x 170.5
3, AC003 n/a test 30 Jun 1964 C LV3C C-C Hydraulic failure in Centaur
4, AC004 64082 test (Surveyor Mass Model 1) 11 Dec 1964 C LV3C C-C 165 x 178 x 30.7 x 87.8
5, AC005 n/a Surveyor SD 1 02 Mar 1965 C LV3C C-C Failure: exploded on launch pad
6, AC006 65064 Surveyor SD 2 11 Aug 1965 C LV3C C-D Solar orbit
7, AC008 66030 test (Surveyor Mass Model 2) 08 Apr 1966 C LV3C C-D 175 x 334 x 30.7 x 89.5
8, AC010 66045 Surveyor-1 30 May 1966 C LV3C C-D Payload landed on the Moon
9, AC007 66084 Surveyor-2 20 Sep 1966 C LV3C C-D Payload impacted on the Moon
10, AC009 66095 test (Surveyor Mass Model 3) 26 Oct 1966 C LV3C C-D 200 x 47000 x 22.9
11, AC012 67035 Surveyor-3 17 Apr 1967 C LV3C C-D Payload landed on the Moon
12, AC011 67068 Surveyor-4 14 Jul 1967 C LV3C C-D Payload impacted on the Moon
13, AC013 67084 Surveyor-5 08 Sep 1967 C SLV3C C-D Payload landed on the Moon
14, AC014 67112 Surveyor-6 07 Nov 1967 C SLV3C C-D Payload landed on the Moon
15, AC015 68001 Surveyor-7 07 Jan 1968 C SLV3C C-D Payload landed on the Moon
16, AC017 68068 ATS 4 10 Aug 1968 C SLV3C C-D Failure: Centaur failed on second ignition
17, AC016 68110 OAO 2 07 Dec 1968 C SLV3C C-D  
18, AC020 69014 Mariner-6 25 Feb 1969 C SLV3C C-D Mars probe
19, AC019 69030 Mariner-7 27 Mar 1969 C SLV3C C-D Mars probe
20, AC018 69069 ATS 5 12 Aug 1969 C SLV3C C-D  
21, AC021 n/a OAO 3 30 Nov 1970 C SLV3C C-D Failure: payload shroud failed to seperate
22, AC025 71006 Intelsat 402 26 Jan 1971 C SLV3C C-D  
23, AC024 n/a Mariner-8 08 May 1971 C SLV3C C-D Failure: Centaur guidance failure
24, AC023 71051 Mariner-9 30 May 1971 C SLV3C C-D Mars probe
25, AC026 71116 Intelsat 403 20 Dec 1971 C SLV3C C-D  
26, AC028 72003 Intelsat 404 23 Jan 1972 C SLV3C C-D  
27, AC027 72012 Pioneer-10 03 Mar 1972 C SLV3C C-D Star-37E Jupiter probe
28, AC029 72041 Intelsat 405 13 Jun 1972 C SLV3C C-D  
29, AC022 72065 OAO 3 21 Aug 1972 C SLV3C C-D  
30, AC030 73019 Pioneer-11 06 Apr 1973 C SLV3D C-D1A Star-37E Jupiter & Saturn probe
31, AC031 73058 Intelsat 407 23 Aug 1973 C SLV3D C-D1A  
32, AC034 73085 Mariner-10 03 Nov 1973 C SLV3D C-D1A Venus and Mercury probe
33, AC032 74073 Intelsat 408 21 Nov 1974 SLV3D C-D1A  
34, AC033 n/a Intelsat 406 20 Feb 1975 SLV3D C-D1A Failure: 1st stage failes due to electrical shortcut
35, AC035 75042 Intelsat 401 22 May 1975 SLV3D C-D1A  
36, AC036 75091 Intelsat 4A01 26 Sep 1975 SLV3D C-D1AR  
37, AC037 76010 Intelsat 4A02 29 Jan 1976 SLV3D C-D1AR  
38, AC038 76042 Comstar 1 13 May 1976 SLV3D C-D1AR  
39, AC040 76073 Comstar 2 22 Jul 1976 SLV3D C-D1AR  
40, AC039 77041 Intelsat 4A04 26 May 1977 SLV3D C-D1AR  
41, AC045 77075 Heao 1 12 Aug 1977 SLV3D C-D1AR  
42, AC043 n/a Intelsat 4A05 30 Sep 1977 SLV3D C-D1AR Failure: Atlas boostersection turbopump failed
43, AC046 78002 Intelsat 4A03 07 Jan 1978 SLV3D C-D1AR  
44, AC044 78016 Fleetsatcom 1 09 Feb 1978 SLV3D C-D1AR  
45, AC048 78035 Intelsat 4A06 31 Mar 1978 SLV3D C-D1AR  
46, AC050 78051 Pioneer-12 (Pioneer Venus-1) 20 May 1978 SLV3D C-D1AR Probe to Venus, Venus orbit
47, AC048 78068 Comstar 3 29 Jun 1978 SLV3D C-D1AR  
48, AC051 78078 Pioneer-13 (Pioneer Venus-2) 08 Aug 1978 SLV3D C-D1AR Probe to Venus: soil module
49, AC052 78103 Heao 2 13 Nov 1978 SLV3D C-D1AR  
50, AC047 79038 Fleetsatcom 2 04 May 1979 SLV3D C-D1AR  
51, AC053 79082 Heao 3 20 Sep 1979 SLV3D C-D1AR  
52, AC049 80004 Fleetsatcom 3 18 Jan 1980 SLV3D C-D1AR  
53, AC057 80087 Fleetsatcom 4 31 Oct 1980 SLV3D C-D1AR  
54, AC054 80098 Intelsat 502 06 Dec 1980 SLV3D C-D1AR  
55, AC042 81018 Comstar 4 21 Feb 1981 SLV3D C-D1AR  
56, AC056 81050 Intelsat 501 23 May 1981 SLV3D C-D1AR  
57, AC059 81073 Fleetsatcom 5 06 Aug 1981 SLV3D C-D1AR  
58, AC055 81119 Intelsat 503 15 Dec 1981 SLV3D C-D1AR  
59, AC058 82017 Intelsat 504 04 Mar 1982 SLV3D C-D1AR  
60, AC060 82097 Intelsat 505 28 Sep 1982 SLV3D C-D1AR  
61, AC061 83047 Intelsat 506 19 May 1983 SLV3D C-D1AR  
62, AC062 84057 Intelsat 509 09 Jun 1984 G C-D1AR Partial failure: Centaur LOX-tank exploded on LEO
63, AC063 85025 Intelsat 510 22 Mar 1985 G C-D1AR  
64, AC064 85055 Intelsat 511 30 Jun 1985 G C-D1AR  
65, AC065 85087 Intelsat 512 29 Sep 1985 G C-D1AR  
66, AC066 86096 Fleetsatcom 7 05 Dec 1986 G C-D1AR  
67, AC067 n/a Fleetsatcom 6 26 Mar 1987 G C-D1AR Failure because of lightning strike
68, AC068 89077 Fleetsatcom 8 25 Sep 1989 G C-D1AR  
69, AC069 90065 CRRES 25 Jul 1990 1 330 x 33600 x 18.1 x 591
70, AC070 n/a Yuri 3H (BS 3H) 19 Apr 1991 at 23:30 UT 1 Failure: one of the two Centaur engines didn't ignite
71, AC102 91083 Eutelsat 2F3 07 Dec 1991 at 22:47 UT 2 (8102)  
72, AC101 92006 DSCS 3-05 11 Feb 1992 at 00:41 UT 2 IABS  
73, AC072 92013 Galaxy 5 14 Mar 1992 1  
74, AC105 92032 Intelsat K 10 Jun 1992 at 00:00 UT 2A  
75, AC103 92037 DSCS 3-06 02 Jul 1992 at 21:54 UT 2 IABS  
76, AC071 n/a Galaxy 1R failure 22 Aug 1992 1 Failure: 3rd stage failed to ignite
77, AC074 93015 UHF 1 25 Mar 1993 at 22:48 UT 1 Partial failure
78, AC104 93046 DSCS 3-07 19 Jul 1993 2 IABS  
79, AC075 93056 UHF 2 03 Sep 1993 at 11:17 UT 1  
80, AC106 93074 DSCS 3-08 28 Nov 1993 2 IABS  
81, AC108 93077 Telstar 401 16 Dec 1993 at 00:40 UT 2AS  
82, AC073 94022 Goes 08 13 Apr 1994 at 06:44 UT C 36B 1  
83, AC076 94035 UHF 3 24 Jun 1994 at 13:50 UT C 36B 1  
84, AC107 94047 DBS 2 03 Aug 1994 at 23:57 UT C 36A 2A  
85, AC111 94064 Intelsat 703 06 Oct 1994 at 06:35 UT C 36B 2AS  
86, AC110 94079 Orion 1 23 Nov 1994 at 10:21 UT C 36A 2A  
87, AC113 95001 Intelsat 704 10 Jan 1995 at 06:18 UT 2AS  
88, AC112 95003 UHF 4 29 Jan 1995 at 01:25 UT 2  
89, AC115 95013 Intelsat 705 22 Mar 1995 at 06:18 UT C 36B 2AS  
90, AC114 95019 AMSC 1 07 Apr 1995 at 23:47 UT C 36A 2A  
91, AC077 95025 Goes 09 23 May 1995 at 05:52 UT C 36B 1  
92, AC116 95027 UHF 5 31 May 1995 at 15:27 UT C 36A 2  
93, AC118 95038 DSCS 3-09 31 Jul 1995 at 23:30 UT 2A IABS  
94, AC117 95043 Jcsat 3 29 Aug 1995 at 00:53 UT C 36B 2AS  
95, AC119 95057 UHF 6 22 Oct 1995 at 08:00 UT C 36B 2  
96, AC121 95065 Soho 02 Dec 1995 at 08:08 UT C 36B 2AS  
97, AC120 95069 Galaxy 3R 15 Dec 1995 at 00:23 UT C 36A 2A  
98, AC126 96006 Palapa C1 1 Feb 1996 at 01:15 UT C 36B 2AS  
99, AC122 96020 Inmarsat 3F1 3 Apr 1996 at 23:01 UT C 36A 2A  
100, AC078 96027 SAX 30 Apr 1996 at 04:31 UT C 36B 1  
101, AC125 96042 UHF 7 25 Jul 1996 at 12:42 UT C 36A 2  
102, AC123 96054 GE 1 8 Sep 1996 at 21.49 UT C 36B 2A  
103, AC124 96067 Hotbird 2 21 Nov 1996 at 20:47 UT C 36B 2A 168 km x 35784 km x 23.8°
104, AC129 96070 Inmarsat 3F3 18 Dec 1996 at 01:57 UT 2A 1017 km x 35820 km x 22.7°
105, AC127 97007 Jcsat 4 17 Feb 1997 at 01:42 UT C 36B 2AS 221 km x 94251 km x 23.5°
106, AC128 97011 Tempo 2 8 Mar 1997 at 06:01 UT C 36A 2A  
107, AC079 97019 Goes 10 25 Apr 1997 at 05:49 UT C 36B 1 announced as the last launch of an Atlas 1
108, AC133 97036 Superbird C 28 Jul 1997 at 01:15 UT C 36B 2AS 333 x 91062 km x 25.3°
109, AC146 97050 GE 3 4 Sep 1997 at 12:03 UT C 36A 2AS 309 x 43913 km x 19.1°
110, AC135 97059 Echostar 3 5 Oct 1997 at 21:01 UT C 36B 2AS  
111, AC131 97065 A: DSCS 3-10
B: Falcon Gold
25 Oct 1997 at 00:46 UT C 36A 2A  
112, AC149 97078 Galaxy 8i 8 Dec 1997 at 23:52 UT C 36B 2AS 280 x 50607 km x 26.8°
113, AC109 98005 USA 137 29 Jan 1998 at 18:37 UT C 36A 2A  
114, AC151 98013 Intelsat 806 28 Feb 1998 at 00:21 UT C 36B 2AS 190 x 35656 km x 23°
115, AC132 98016 UHF 8 16 Mar 1998 at 21:32 UT C 36A 2 last Atlas 2
116, AC153 98037 Intelsat 805 18 Jun 1998 at 22:48 UT C 36A 2AS  
117, AC134 98057 Hotbird 5 9 Oct 1998 at 22:50 C 36B 2A  
118, AC130 98058 UHF 9 20 Oct 1998 at 07:19 UT C 36A 2A  
119, AC152 99006 Jcsat 6 16 Feb 1999 at 01:45 UT C 36A 2AS 258 x 96736 km x 24.1°
120, AC154 99018 Eutelsat 3F3 12 Apr 1999 at 22:50 UT C 36A 2AS 166 x 46076 km x 19.7°
121, AC155 99050 Echostar 5 23 Sep 1999 at 06:02 UT C 36A 2AS 131 x 45526 km x 26.6°
122, AC136 99063 UHF 10 23 Nov 1999 at 04:06 UT C 36B 2A  
123, AC141 99068 EOS AM 18 Dec 1999 at 18:57 UT V SLC3E 2AS First launch from Vandenberg, first use of the 4.3 m length payload fairing
124, AC138 00001 DSCS 3-11 21 Jan 2000 at 01:03 UT C 36A 2A  
125, AC158 00007 Hispasat 1C 3 Feb 2000 at 23:30 UT C 36B 2AS 222 x 45730 km x 18.7°
126, AC137 00020 Goes 11 3 May 2000 at 07:07 UT C 36A 2A  
127, AC201 00028 Eutelsat 3F4 24 May 2000 at 23:10 UT C 36B 3A With RD-180 first-stage motors. The Centaur has only 1 RL-10 engine
230 x 45777 km x 19.9°
128, AC139 00034 TDRS 8 30 Jun 2000 at 12:55 UT C 36A 2A 237 x 27666 km x 27.0°
129, AC161 00038 Echostar 6 14 Jul 2000 at 05:21 UT C 36B 2AS  
130, AC140 00065 DSCS 3-12 20 Oct 2000 at 00:40 UT C 36A 2A  
131, AC157 00080 USA 155 6 Dec 2000 at 02:47 UT C 36A 2AS  
132, AC156 01026 ICO 2 19 Jun 2001 at 04:41 UT C 36B 2AS  
133, AC142 01031 Goes 12 23 Jul 2001 at 07:23 UT C 36A 2A 274 x 42275 km x 20°
134, AC160 01040 USA 160 8 Sep 2001 at 15:24 UT V 3E 2AS  
135, AC162 01046 USA 162 11 Oct 2001 at 02:32 UT C 36B 2AS 274 x 37538 km x 26.5°
136, AC204 02006 Echostar 7 21 Feb 2002 at 12:43 UT C 36B 3B DEC 186 x 57371 km x 22.9°
137, AC143 02011 TDRS 9 8 Mar 2002 at 22:59 UT C 36A 2A  
138, AC159 02044 Hispasat 1D 18 Sep 2002 at 00:04 UT C 36A 2AS  
139, AC144 02055 TDRS 10 5 Dec 2002 at 02:42 UT C 36A 2A  
140, AC205 03014 Asiasat 4 12 Apr 2003 at 00:47 UT C 36B 3B SEC 201 x 47920 km x 27°
141, AC164 03054 USA 173 02 Dec 2003 at 10:04 UT V 3E 2AS  
142, AC203 03057 UHF 11 18 Dec 2003 at 02:30 UT C 36B 3B SEC 288 x 35913 km x 27°
143, AC165 04003 GE 10 05 Feb 2004 at 23:46 UT C 36A 2AS 186 x 35946 km x 12.4°
144, AC202 04007 Mbsat 13 Mar 2004 at 05:40 UT C 36B 3A 183.5 x 35940 km x 24.8°
145, AC163 04011 Superbird 6 16 Apr 2004 at 00:45 UT C 36A 2AS 167 x 122349 km x 26.25°
146, AC166 04017 GE 11 19 May 2004 at 22:22 UT C 36B 2AS 186.7 x 35929 km x 12.4°
147, AC167 04034 USA 179 31 Aug 2004 at 23:17 UT C 36A 2AS 400 x 40000 km x 63°
Last Atlas 2
Last launch from pad 36A
148, AC206 05004 USA 181 3 Feb 2005 at 07:41 UT C 36B 3B SEC  

Note: In the launch site column C stands for Cape Canaveral, V for Vandenberg and may be followed by the launch pad number. In the type column the second part of the type beginning with C- stands for Centaur-

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