ATHENA computer

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For the Atlas Mod I Guidance Computer at the Smithsonian, see [[:]] and SM-65 Atlas.

The UNIVAC Athena computer was the processor for ground commands to the HGM-25A Titan I ICBM as part of Western Electric's missile guidance system. The Athena was the "first transistorized digital computer to be produced in numbers" and computing Titan flight data to the necessary burn-out point to start a ballistic trajectory toward the target. Consisting of ten cabinets plus console on a 13.5 by 20 foot (4.1 by 6 m) floor pan. Onboard Titan attitude control rolled the missile to maintain the missile antenna aligned to the ground antenna. Computer outputs were transmitted to the missile from a ground transmitter a "quarter mile out" (0.6 km).[1] Completed in 1957, the Athena weighed 21,000 pounds (9500 kg).[2]

The Athena used a Harvard architecture design with separate data and instruction memories[citation needed] by Seymour Cray at Sperry Rand Corporation and cost about $1,800,000.[3] Used with the computer were the:

  • AN/GSK-1 Computer Set Console (OA-2654)[4]
  • Frieden terminal with paper tape equipment[2]
  • "massive motor-generator set with 440 volt 3 phase AC input [that] weighed over 2 tons" at remote locations[citation needed]
  • input from one of two large Western Electric radars[specify] in silos each with "20 foot (6 m) tall antenna" raised prior to launch and locked to the raised Titan's "missileborne antenna".[1]

The "battleshort" mode ("melt-before-fail") prevented failsafe circuits such as fuses from deactivating the machine (e.g., used during missile launch.)[5]

The last Athena launch was a Thor-Agena missile launched in 1972 from Vandenberg AFB in California, the last of over 400 missile flights using the Athena.[citation needed] The 26 Athena computers, when declared surplus by the Federal Government, went to various US universities. The one at Carnegie was used as an undergrad project until 1971, when the former EE undergrad students (Athena Systems Development Group) orchestrated its donation to the Smithsonian.