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Thor-Able II Transit 1A.jpg
Launch of the Transit 1A satellite on a Thor-Able II
Function Expendable launch system
Sounding rocket
Manufacturer Douglas/Aerojet
Country of origin  United States
Height 26.9 metres (88 ft) - 27.8 metres (91 ft)
Diameter 2.44 metres (8 ft 0 in)
Mass 51,608 kilograms (113,776 lb)
Stages 2-3
Payload to
640km LEO
120 kilograms (260 lb)
Associated rockets
Family Thor
Derivatives Thor-Ablestar
Comparable Luna
Launch history
Launch sites LC-17A, Canaveral
Total launches 16
Successes 10
Failures 6
First flight 24 April 1958
Last flight 1 April 1960
Notable payloads Pioneer
First Stage - Thor
Engines 1 LR79-7
Thrust 758.71 kilonewtons (170,560 lbf)
Specific impulse 282 sec
Burn time 165 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Second Stage - Able
Engines 1 AJ-10
Thrust 34.69 kilonewtons (7,800 lbf)
Specific impulse 270 sec
Burn time 115 seconds
Third Stage (optional) - Altair
Engines 1 X-248
Thrust 12.45 kilonewtons (2,800 lbf)
Specific impulse 256 sec
Burn time 38 seconds
Fuel Solid

The Thor-Able was an American expendable launch system and sounding rocket used for a series of re-entry vehicle tests and satellite launches between 1958 and 1960. It was a two stage rocket, consisting of a Thor IRBM as a first stage, and a Vanguard-derived Able second stage. On some flights, an Altair solid rocket motor was added as a third stage. It was a member of the Thor family, and an early predecessor of the Delta.[1][2]

Sixteen Thor-Ables were launched, nine on sub-orbital re-entry vehicle test flights, and seven on orbital satellite launch attempts. Six launches resulted in failures, however three of those failures were the result of an Altair upper stage added to the rocket to allow it to launch the spacecraft onto a trans-lunar trajectory. All sixteen launches occurred from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 17A.[3]

The Able upper stage name represents its place as the first in the series, from the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Thor Able". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  2. ^ Wade, Mark. "Delta". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  3. ^ Lethbridge, Cliff. "Thor-Able Fact Sheet". Cape Canaveral Rocket and Missile Programs. Spaceline. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  4. ^ Helen T. Wells, Susan H. Whiteley, and Carrie E. Karegeannes. Origin of NASA Names. NASA Science and Technical Information Office. p. 5. 

External links[edit]