Author Topic: The different variants of Atlas boosters  (Read 73177 times)

Offline simonbp

Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #40 on: 04/15/2015 09:33 PM »
Here's my stab at Atlas SLV-3 Agena D, the classic American rocket.  Some tweaking likely needed on this one yet.

 - Ed Kyle

I was looking at Agena specs the other day and was surprised at the mass fraction. To me it always looked like it was built in a barn, but I guess it was pretty sophisticated.

Are there any surviving Agena D stages?
I've seen two at Cape Canaveral Air Force Museum.  There's one or two at the USAF museum in Dayton, and one or two at the Smithsonian.  These are in addition to whatever Agena stages might actually be stacked in rocket gardens.

Yes.  Agena was more Lockheed Skunk Works magic.  It took a lot of money, and a lot of early teething problems, but Agena to this day remains the most-flown U.S. upper stage (launched atop Thor, Atlas, and Titan).  Its importance is not widely understood due to the secrecy of most of its missions.

 - Ed Kyle

I think USSRC in Huntsville has a full GATV in storage, but it might be missing the Agena (it's been a few year since I saw it).

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #41 on: 04/16/2015 12:29 AM »
Here's my stab at Atlas SLV-3 Agena D, the classic American rocket.  Some tweaking likely needed on this one yet.

 - Ed Kyle

I was looking at Agena specs the other day and was surprised at the mass fraction. To me it always looked like it was built in a barn, but I guess it was pretty sophisticated.

Are there any surviving Agena D stages?
I've seen two at Cape Canaveral Air Force Museum.  There's one or two at the USAF museum in Dayton, and one or two at the Smithsonian.  These are in addition to whatever Agena stages might actually be stacked in rocket gardens.

Yes.  Agena was more Lockheed Skunk Works magic.  It took a lot of money, and a lot of early teething problems, but Agena to this day remains the most-flown U.S. upper stage (launched atop Thor, Atlas, and Titan).  Its importance is not widely understood due to the secrecy of most of its missions.

 - Ed Kyle

I think USSRC in Huntsville has a full GATV in storage, but it might be missing the Agena (it's been a few year since I saw it).

If it's missing the Agena, it would just be a Target Docking Adapter (TDA).  In fact, I thought I remembered that they flew all of the Agenas they had configured as GATVs, including the one they were going to reserve as a non-flying ground test vehicle.  (Losing two of them during launch had some negative impacts on the program.)
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Online Archibald

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #42 on: 04/16/2015 06:28 AM »
Quote
One of them, AC-5, ended in the biggest on-pad explosion yet seen in Florida

My favourite rocket explosion. BOOOOM, huge fireball !

Online Skyrocket

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #43 on: 04/16/2015 11:28 AM »

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.

I do disagree (in some way).

For the Atlas-E/F versions, it is many cases difficult to decide, if the upper stage was part of the payload:
On the DMSP/NOAA satellites, the Star motor was clearly integrated with the payload. On the other hand, the PTS, OIS, SGS-1 and SGS-2 upper stages (all some kind of Star motors) were clearly not integrated with the payload - although formally they were handled as part of the payload.

In my list, i have decided to list the Atlas-E/Fs with the individual upper stages as seperate versions, as these upperstage-payload combinations required different adaptors and fairings to be fitted with the Atlas stage.

http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau/atlas_sd.htm

Offline Jim

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #44 on: 04/16/2015 02:19 PM »
I do disagree (in some way).

For the Atlas-E/F versions, it is many cases difficult to decide, if the upper stage was part of the payload:
On the DMSP/NOAA satellites, the Star motor was clearly integrated with the payload. On the other hand, the PTS, OIS, SGS-1 and SGS-2 upper stages (all some kind of Star motors) were clearly not integrated with the payload - although formally they were handled as part of the payload.

In my list, i have decided to list the Atlas-E/Fs with the individual upper stages as seperate versions, as these upperstage-payload combinations required different adaptors and fairings to be fitted with the Atlas stage.

http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau/atlas_sd.htm

It is easy to differentiate.  If it is part of the spacecraft like NOAA/DSMP, then it is not an upper stage.

SGS were never formally handled as part of the payload.  They were separate stages built and processed by different contractors than the spacecraft contractor. SGS-1 and SGS-2 were Fairchild and McDonnell Douglas.  No different than STAR-48 third stages on Deltas.  That also applies to OIS and PTS. 

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #45 on: 04/16/2015 10:26 PM »
SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) was famously launched by Atlas 10B from Cape Canaveral LC 11 on December 18, 1958.  The entire Atlas sustainer stage boosted itself to a 159 x 1,187 km x 32.29 deg orbit.  The usual 1.5-ish tonne RV was replaced by a lightweight nose fairing.  The sustainer and 68 kg of additional SCORE hardware weighed 3,969 kg.  It was the first orbital Atlas, and only the fifth U.S.
orbital success.  It was also the very first U.S. Air Force orbital success. 

10B got to orbit in a hurry, and endured some high-g forces before SECO to get there.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #46 on: 04/17/2015 12:22 AM »
SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) was famously launched by Atlas 10B from Cape Canaveral LC 11 on December 18, 1958.  The entire Atlas sustainer stage boosted itself to a 159 x 1,187 km x 32.29 deg orbit.  The usual 1.5-ish tonne RV was replaced by a lightweight nose fairing.  The sustainer and 68 kg of additional SCORE hardware weighed 3,969 kg.  It was the first orbital Atlas, and only the fifth U.S.
orbital success.  It was also the very first U.S. Air Force orbital success. 

10B got to orbit in a hurry, and endured some high-g forces before SECO to get there.

 - Ed Kyle

And it played, AIUI, the very first human voice (from a recording) ever sent from an American satellite to the ground.

It was a Christmas message to the world from President Eisenhower.  The recording was launched aboard the spacecraft and played back from there, so in this case it wasn't a relay, it was a voice transmission originating from orbit.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #47 on: 04/17/2015 01:57 AM »
And it played, AIUI, the very first human voice (from a recording) ever sent from an American satellite to the ground.

It was a Christmas message to the world from President Eisenhower.  The recording was launched aboard the spacecraft and played back from there, so in this case it wasn't a relay, it was a voice transmission originating from orbit.
As I understand SCORE, it also demonstrated a basic store and forward capability.  Recordings could be uplinked to a tape recorder, and then played back down. 

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Antilope7724

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #48 on: 04/17/2015 05:56 AM »
Here's a Life Magazine story from Jan 1959 about the SCORE satellite. There is a color picture of the launch.

Scan of article in the Google magazine archive:

https://books.google.com/books?id=Gj8EAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA10#v=twopage&q&f=false
« Last Edit: 04/17/2015 05:57 AM by Antilope7724 »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #49 on: 04/17/2015 12:22 PM »
I think I like the illustration of booster separating from the sustainer and rocket. That's an image you almost never see.

Have any pictures of that ever been published?
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Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #50 on: 04/17/2015 02:53 PM »
I think I like the illustration of booster separating from the sustainer and rocket. That's an image you almost never see.

Have any pictures of that ever been published?
There were a couple of engineering camera shots of booster package jettison and of the sustainer stage in space.  The stage was seen and possibly photographed by Mercury astronauts as well.  Here are a couple of amazing images of the Atlas 71D sustainer stage in flight, taken either from an engineering camera pod or from the just-separated RV itself.  These are from SDASM.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/17/2015 05:57 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #51 on: 04/19/2015 06:11 PM »
Atlas LV-3B Mercury put John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, and Gordon Cooper into orbit, not to mention chimpanzee Enos.  LV-3B was an Atlas D modified with an Abort Sensing & Instrumentation (ASIS) failure detection system and, after the MA-1 failure, with a beefed up tank section near the spacecraft adapter.  Other changes included simultaneous SECO/VECO, lightweight telemetry, and redundant autopilot. 

How many who grew up then built a Mercury Atlas model?  I had more than one. 

Three of the first four launches, including the precursor Big Joe flight, suffered some type of failure.  Atlas itself was still only succeeding during a little more than half of its flights.  Still Glenn and the others climbed aboard without hesitation.  Crazy?  Maybe a little.  Brave?  Absolutely.  National heroes?  They gave astronauts ticker tape parades and medals back then. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/16/2015 11:40 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #52 on: 04/20/2015 01:35 PM »
I think I like the illustration of booster separating from the sustainer and rocket. That's an image you almost never see.

Have any pictures of that ever been published?
There were a couple of engineering camera shots of booster package jettison and of the sustainer stage in space.  The stage was seen and possibly photographed by Mercury astronauts as well.  Here are a couple of amazing images of the Atlas 71D sustainer stage in flight, taken either from an engineering camera pod or from the just-separated RV itself.  These are from SDASM.

 - Ed Kyle

Really looks like the lower part of the LOX tank still had frost on it, while it was gone from the upper section. Was that the LOX level when atmospheric heating stopped effecting the vehicle? Weird.

Oh, a bit late on my reply, but thanks for those. I assume SDASM is the collection at the San Diego Air Space Museum.
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Offline Antilope7724

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #53 on: 04/22/2015 04:37 PM »
Here is a picture of the Mercury-Atlas sustainer in orbit taken from
the MA-5 Mercury spacecraft that carried the astrochimp Enos.

It looks like the frost on the oxidizer tank is a common thing with the Atlas sustainer in orbit.

NASA photo MA-5-4712-020
http://tothemoon.ser.asu.edu/gallery/mercury/5#MA-5-4712-020

http://tothemoon.ser.asu.edu/data_m/MA-5/full/MA-5-4712-020_f.png

Here is a zoomed in crop of the above linked photo: (MA-5-4712-020)


« Last Edit: 04/22/2015 04:40 PM by Antilope7724 »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #54 on: 04/22/2015 07:06 PM »
Atlas LV-3A Agena A only flew four times during 1960-61.  It was a stop-gap measure until the larger Agena B stage came on line.  Agena A, also flying on Thor at the time, was troubled at this stage.  Lockheed was still climbing the spaceflight learning curve.   Two launches with MIDAS payloads (precursor IR missile sensing satellites) took place from the Cape.  Atlas and Agena collided at staging on the first attempt.  The second launch made it to orbit, but Agena soon tumbled out of control.  Two subsequent launches carried SAMOS payloads from Vandenberg AFB PA 1-1 (today's mothballed SLC 3W).  Agena failed on the first try.  The second made it to near polar orbit.  SAMOS took photographs, then scanned the photos and transmitted them by radio.  Image quality turned out to be insufficient for reconnaissance.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Citabria

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #55 on: 04/23/2015 04:30 PM »
I've posted this elsewhere, but I'll post it here too.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #56 on: 04/25/2015 06:15 PM »
When it began flying in mid-1961, Atlas LV-3A Agena B was the heaviest, most-capable rocket the United States had launched up to that time.  The stretched Agena had, for the first time, a restartable engine.  LV-3A Agena B worked for both the U.S. Air Force and NASA from the outset, launching MIDAS and SAMOS from Vandenberg and Ranger and Mariner from Cape Canaveral for a 28 launch total.  SAMOS turned into a frustrating program failure.  MIDAS did better, though with many early setbacks, setting the stage for later missile warning satellites.  Both used Agena as a spacecraft bus.  Ranger failed stubbornly for two years until No. 7 finally photographed the Moon before impact in mid-1964.  Mariner 2 was a major early success.  Agena B restarted successfully to send the little JPL satellite toward mankind's first successful flyby of another planet (Venus) in 1962. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/30/2015 03:15 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #57 on: 04/30/2015 02:40 AM »
Atlas LV-3A/Agena D flew 15 times during 1963 to 1965, before the Atlas D-based LV-3A was supplanted by the standardized Atlas SLV-3.  Agena D was a first step in that standardization, since it was designed to fly on Thor, Atlas, and Titan.  Atlas Agena D was developed primarily to orbit NRO's Gambit-1 from Vandenberg AFB.  Ten of the 15 LV-3A/Agena D flights did exactly that.  Gambit-1 was the first seriously impressive U.S. imaging spysat.  It likely cost more than NASA's Gemini program.   

LV-3A/Agena D also launched three pairs of Vela satellites from Cape Canaveral LC 13 into deep orbits beyond the GEO belt, where they monitored for signs of nuclear explosions following the signing of the nuclear limited test ban treaty.

Public awareness of LV-3A/Agena D was limited to the Mariner 3 and Mariner 4 launches in November, 1964.  Both JPL spacecraft were processed simultaneously.  Mariner 3 flew from LC 13 and Mariner 4 from LC 12.  Both made it to solar orbit, but Mariner 3 died in its never-ejected shroud.  Mariner 4 performed the first successful flyby of Mars, returning the first close photographs of its surface.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/30/2015 02:45 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #58 on: 04/30/2015 12:56 PM »
Ed, May I ask how Mariner 5 fit into all this. It was built as a backup for Mariner 3 and 4, was a backup vehicle also procured and them re-purposed for either Gambit or Vela?
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Offline edkyle99

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Re: The different variants of Atlas boosters
« Reply #59 on: 04/30/2015 01:23 PM »
Ed, May I ask how Mariner 5 fit into all this. It was built as a backup for Mariner 3 and 4, was a backup vehicle also procured and them re-purposed for either Gambit or Vela?
Mariner 3 used Atlas 289D (LV-3A) and Agena A6931
Mariner 4 used Atlas 288D (LV-3A) and Agena A6932
Mariner 5 used Atlas 5401 (SLV-3) and Agena A6933

It appears that the Agena was serially produced for the Mariner 3-5 series and flew with its intended spacecraft.  I haven't yet found any Atlas numbers like 290D or 287D, etc. 

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/30/2015 07:34 PM by edkyle99 »

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