Author Topic: The different variants of Atlas boosters  (Read 76401 times)

Offline Antilope7724

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« Last Edit: 04/07/2015 03:34 PM by Antilope7724 »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #21 on: 04/09/2015 05:10 PM »
Here's Atlas E/F with a Star 37S upper stage.  The Star motor was integrated with the satellite so that it could provide coast and roll control.  Atlas itself flew suborbital.  Star 37S ignited after a five minute coast to apogee to complete the orbital insertion.  These put NOAA and DMSP-5D2 weather satellites into sun synchronous orbit from Vandenberg AFB from 1978 until 1995.  The last one was the final refurbished ex-Atlas ICBM to fly.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/10/2015 02:55 PM by edkyle99 »

Online kevin-rf

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #22 on: 04/09/2015 05:20 PM »
Ed, I must say I really like you publishing them with mass to the typical orbits flown instead of a standard set of theoretical orbits the vehicle never flew.

Was the Star 37 spin stabilized?
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Offline Jim

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #23 on: 04/09/2015 05:42 PM »
Here's Atlas E/F with a Star 37S upper stage.  The Star motor was integrated with the satellite so that it could provide coast and roll control.  Atlas itself flew suborbital.  Star 37S ignited after a five minute coast to apogee to complete the orbital insertion.  These put NOAA and DMSP-5D2 weather satellites into sun synchronous orbit from Vandenberg AFB from 1978 until 1995.  The last one was the final refurbished ex-Atlas ICBM to fly.

 - Ed Kyle

I don't agree with pairing the Atlas with the Star 37.  The SRM is not part of the launch vehicle nor is it supplied by the launch vehicle. 

Offline notsorandom

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #24 on: 04/09/2015 06:02 PM »
Speaking of Atlas variants, there was a variant proposed for the Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle (CELV) program. Ultimately the Titan IV came out of it. Another proposal was the infamous SRB-X. However I have run across very little on this version of the Atlas. It is made all the more tricky because they called it Atlas II. Which was of course the name of a different real version.

The most detailed account of the rocket is "Assessment of Candidate Expendable Launch Vehicles for Large Payloads" by National Academies, 1984. I have attached a picture from that document. It list the rocket as having 5 liquid H-1D engines, 4 67" SRBs and using the Centaur G. It is listed as having 500 lbs more payload to GEO than the Titan version the document examined. According to it the Titan was a lower risk to develop. I am not sure if that is the reason the Titan prevailed. Certainly an interesting what-if.
« Last Edit: 04/09/2015 06:04 PM by notsorandom »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #25 on: 04/09/2015 06:42 PM »
Here's Atlas E/F with a Star 37S upper stage.  The Star motor was integrated with the satellite so that it could provide coast and roll control.  Atlas itself flew suborbital.  Star 37S ignited after a five minute coast to apogee to complete the orbital insertion.  These put NOAA and DMSP-5D2 weather satellites into sun synchronous orbit from Vandenberg AFB from 1978 until 1995.  The last one was the final refurbished ex-Atlas ICBM to fly.

 - Ed Kyle

I don't agree with pairing the Atlas with the Star 37.  The SRM is not part of the launch vehicle nor is it supplied by the launch vehicle. 
In this case, I want to show the Star 37 because it was essential to reaching orbital velocity.  Atlas only flew a suborbital trajectory, with the sustainer stage impacting about 4,500 nautical miles downrange.  I'll clarify the note that the Star 37 was integrated with the payload, but the Star motor must also be considered as part of the total orbital launch system.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #26 on: 04/09/2015 06:47 PM »
Was the Star 37 spin stabilized?
In this application, the Star 37S motor was integrated with the Tiros/DMSP weather satellite payload.  The RCA Astro Space satellite provided three-axis control so that the motor did not have to be spin-stable.  The satellite and solid motor coasted to apogee (Atlas was suborbital) before the motor ignited to reach orbital velocity.   The satellite's hydrazine propulsion system also provided a final velocity trim after Star 37S motor burnout.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/10/2015 12:06 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline Jim Davis

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #27 on: 04/11/2015 02:52 AM »
I don't agree with pairing the Atlas with the Star 37.  The SRM is not part of the launch vehicle nor is it supplied by the launch vehicle.

I'm not sure that's particularly relevant. The large majority of Atlas Agena payloads were integrated with the Agena but no one disagrees with pairing Atlas with Agena.

Offline Jim

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #28 on: 04/11/2015 01:45 PM »

I'm not sure that's particularly relevant. The large majority of Atlas Agena payloads were integrated with the Agena but no one disagrees with pairing Atlas with Agena.

Despite the majority that were, there were many (more than 40) that weren't and that is the reason for the pairing.   There were no Star-37 missions that were not integral to the spacecraft.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #29 on: 04/11/2015 04:23 PM »
Here's LV-3C/Centaur, the original "Atlas Centaur" with the world's first liquid hydrogen fueled orbital stage.  Twelve were launched between 1962 and 1967, during what turned out to be a tortuous development program.  The first launch failed on May 8, 1962 when Centaur's insulation panels failed during the first minute of flight.  Four more failures would follow (a total of three orbit fails and two RL10 restart fails).  One of them, AC-5, ended in the biggest on-pad explosion yet seen in Florida.  The first real payload, Surveyor 1, wasn't launched until May 30, 1966 by AC-10 (the 8th flight).   Surveyors 2-4 followed before the more capable SLV 3C/Centaur D vehicle took over.

The program was saved (after a Congressional investigation) by wresting it from MSFC and placing it in the hands of Lewis Center's Abe Silverstein.  Program development costs increased by nearly a factor of six from original plans.  But, looking back today, with Centaur still serving the nation, it was worth every penny.     

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/11/2015 04:54 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Antilope7724

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #30 on: 04/11/2015 04:45 PM »
Some of the more unusual looking Altas types I've seen were the Atlas Able and an Atlas F? with a paddle shaped payload.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #31 on: 04/11/2015 04:56 PM »
Some of the more unusual looking Altas types I've seen were the Atlas Able and an Atlas F? with a paddle shaped payload.
Oh yes.  I'll have to do Atlas-Able next.  It's Jim's favorite rocket!

 - Ed Kyle

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #32 on: 04/11/2015 10:44 PM »
I thought Jim's favorite was the Estes D Motor.

Btw. Keep up the good work. The cards are excellent.
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Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #33 on: 04/12/2015 12:22 AM »
I thought Jim's favorite was the Estes D Motor.

Nah.  You had to get up to an F motor before you got a decent roar out of your rocket.  Even a D engine gave you a "Pfffffft!" sound.

Btw. Keep up the good work. The cards are excellent.

Truly excellent.  And in just that classy data card format I like.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #34 on: 04/12/2015 07:07 PM »
Atlas-Able was the "least successful" U.S. launch vehicle, which is to say that it never succeeded.  Although derided in historic re-telling, when any mention is made at all, it is worthwhile to contemplate the program and seek the "why" of Atlas-Able.

At the dawn of the space age, the U.S. had, or nearly had, Redstone/Jupiter-C, Vanguard, Jupiter, Thor, and, just coming on-line, Atlas.  The USAF added the Vanguard second stage to Thor to create Thor-Able for reentry tests that began, with surprising success, in early 1958.  NASA, formed in October 1958, immediately found itself in charge of the Thor-Able Pioneer Moon shots initially funded by ARPA.  NASA had plans to create Atlas-Vega and Atlas-Centaur, but it needed faster solutions in the interim.  Atlas-Able was one of those solutions. 

Given Thor-Able's success, Atlas-Able made sense.  The problem was schedule, thanks to the demands of the early Space Race.  The rocket was approved in November 1958, but NASA planned for it to send a Pioneer probe to Venus only seven months later, in June of 1959.  Space Technology Labs soon fell behind on its payload work, losing the window, so NASA settled on a still ambitious plan to orbit the Moon instead.  The intricate STL Pioneer P series satellites that resulted were seriously advanced for their time, complete with built-in thrusters to insert themselves into lunar orbit.

The first Atlas Able, which used an Atlas C, was destroyed in an FRF attempt at LC 12 on September 24, 1959.  Helium was improperly injected into the sustainer fuel pump line due to a configuration error, causing cavitation and overspeed.  The overspeed caused a shutdown after a little more than 2 seconds.  The shutdown caused a sustainer propellant duct failure, which caused a fire in the Atlas engine section that soon caused the tanks to fail and the vehicle to explode.  No satellite was on-board for the FRF. 

Atlas Able 4B (powered by Atlas 20D) was launched from LC 14 two months later, but the payload fairing failed 45 seconds after liftoff.  It was due to a design oversight that neglected to provide a means of equalizing air pressure inside the fairing.  Thor-Able had used a smaller type of fairing.

Ten months passed before the next launch.  Much happened during that time.  NASA continued to use Thor Able, and began flying Delta, a modified Thor-Able, with success.  Agena appeared atop Atlas, and NASA immediately laid plans to use that more capable upper stage.  Atlas-Able's days were numbered, but the final two flights were attempted. 

Atlas Able 5A came nearest success on September 25, 1960, when Atlas completed its work and Able ignited its AJ10-103 engine.  Unfortunately Able failed after 67 seconds due to an oxidizer system problem in the pressure fed stage.  Atlas Able 5B failed on December 15, 1960 when the Able stage ignited early, at T+70 seconds, even while the Atlas booster burn was still underway.  The result was a bit baffling to ground observers, because part of the vehicle kept thrusting ahead out of the fireball. 

It is interesting to contemplate how Atlas Able might have evolved if allowed to continue.  NASA could have ended up with an "Atlas-Delta", with an ever-more-advanced AJ10 powered restartable upper stage.  Such a rocket could have done interesting work, without the need for the Delta strap-on boosters, but the success of Thor-Delta and Atlas-Agena basically made such an effort redundant.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/13/2015 03:18 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline Antilope7724

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #35 on: 04/12/2015 08:04 PM »
Maybe they should have called it the Atlas-unAble.  ;) Of the 5 made, like you said, 2 exploded in static testing and 3 failed during launch.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #36 on: 04/12/2015 10:36 PM »
Maybe they should have called it the Atlas-unAble.  ;) Of the 5 made, like you said, 2 exploded in static testing and 3 failed during launch.
There were only four, with one lost during a static test firing.  Astronautix has had this error for years, and Wikipedia has propagated the error.  Gunter knows the truth.
http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau/atlas_able.htm

I've never believed that Atlas-Able was inherently flawed, only that it was rushed, underfunded, and probably could have been better-managed.  The effort was caught in the middle of the ARPA to NASA handoff, and may have been affected by STL's breakup to create The Aerospace Corporation in 1960.  Convair was just learning about orbital launch at the time as well.

- Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/13/2015 02:48 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline Antilope7724

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #37 on: 04/13/2015 06:09 PM »
Maybe they should have called it the Atlas-unAble.  ;) Of the 5 made, like you said, 2 exploded in static testing and 3 failed during launch.
There were only four, with one lost during a static test firing.  Astronautix has had this error for years, and Wikipedia has propagated the error.  Gunter knows the truth.
http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau/atlas_able.htm

I've never believed that Atlas-Able was inherently flawed, only that it was rushed, underfunded, and probably could have been better-managed.  The effort was caught in the middle of the ARPA to NASA handoff, and may have been affected by STL's breakup to create The Aerospace Corporation in 1960.  Convair was just learning about orbital launch at the time as well.

- Ed Kyle

I got the 5 built number from Wikipedia, not from your quote, sorry. Wouldn't be the first time Wikipedia was wrong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas-Able

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #38 on: 04/15/2015 04:58 PM »
One-of-a-kind Atlas F Agena D boosted Seasat into near-polar orbit from VAFB SLC 3W on June 27, 1978.  For this NASA/JPL mission, which required a wider payload fairing, General Dynamics modified Atlas 23F (originally manufactured in 1961 for ICBM duty), cutting off its tapered LOX tank section and replacing it with a cylindrical section.  GD also provided a modified interstage from its Atlas-Centaur program.  Lockheed provided the payload fairing, which was a modified leftover ground test article from its Titan 3B/Ascent Agena program.  (One wonders why NASA couldn't use a Titan 3B/Agena for this mission.)  Agena D fired twice to reach a 780 x 790 km x 108.022 deg orbit, then served as a bus for the innovative synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite.  Seasat mapped sea states before suffering an electrical failure 106 days into its mission.   

This scrounged-up oddball rocket, which worked to perfection, was the final Atlas-Agena.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/15/2015 05:08 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline arachnitect

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #39 on: 04/15/2015 08:39 PM »
One-of-a-kind Atlas F Agena D boosted Seasat into near-polar orbit from VAFB SLC 3W on June 27, 1978.  For this NASA/JPL mission, which required a wider payload fairing, General Dynamics modified Atlas 23F (originally manufactured in 1961 for ICBM duty), cutting off its tapered LOX tank section and replacing it with a cylindrical section.  GD also provided a modified interstage from its Atlas-Centaur program.  Lockheed provided the payload fairing, which was a modified leftover ground test article from its Titan 3B/Ascent Agena program.  (One wonders why NASA couldn't use a Titan 3B/Agena for this mission.)  Agena D fired twice to reach a 780 x 790 km x 108.022 deg orbit, then served as a bus for the innovative synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite.  Seasat mapped sea states before suffering an electrical failure 106 days into its mission.   

This scrounged-up oddball rocket, which worked to perfection, was the final Atlas-Agena.

 - Ed Kyle

It's amazing such a one-off was successful.

There's a conspiracy theory out there that Seasat didn't break, rather, it was working too well and could detect submerged submarines. I doubt it, but it's a fun story

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