Atlas SLV-3

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Atlas SLV-3
Atlas SLV-3.jpg
Launch of the last Atlas SLV-3, with a Burner upper stage
Function Expendable launch system
Sounding rocket
Manufacturer Convair
General Dynamics
Country of origin United States
Launch history
Status Retired
Launch sites SLC-3E, Vandenberg
LC-14, Cape Canaveral
Total launches 5
Successes 3
Failures 2
First flight 1 June 1966
Last flight 16 August 1968

The Atlas SLV-3, or SLV-3 Atlas was an American expendable launch system derived from the SM-65 Atlas missile. It was a member of the Atlas family of rockets, and was used for three suborbital tests of X-23 Prime re-entry vehicles. Two orbital launches were also conducted, both of which failed.

The Atlas SLV-3 was a stage and a half rocket, built as a standardised replacement for earlier Atlas launch systems, which had been derived from the various Atlas missiles.[1] A Burner upper stage was flown on the final flight to increase payload.[2]

ATDA in orbit, with its payload fairing still attached.

It is most well known for launching the Augmented Target Docking Adapter (ATDA), a backup for the Agena Target Vehicle which was to be used by Gemini 9 after its GATV failed to reach orbit. The launch was conducted on 1 June 1966, and was the first flight of the Atlas SLV-3 as an independent vehicle. The rocket lifted the ATDA to a nearly perfect 185-mile (298 km) orbit, yet telemetry indicated the payload fairing had only partially opened and failed to separate.[3] After rendezvous with the ATDA, the Gemini 9A crew confirmed the condition of the fairing, which prevented them from docking.

The Atlas SLV-3 was also used as the first stage of several Atlas-Agena and Atlas-Centaur variants.


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