|This article contains information about a rocket launch that is scheduled to occur imminently or may already be in progress.
Details may change rapidly as the countdown and ascent progress, and initial news reports may be unreliable. The last updates to this article may not reflect the most current information.
Launch of an Atlas V 401 carrying the LRO and LCROSS
|Function||EELV/Medium-heavy launch vehicle|
|Manufacturer||United Launch Alliance|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Height||58.3 meters (191 ft)|
|Diameter||3.81 meters (12.5 ft)|
|Mass||334,500 kilograms (737,400 lb)|
|Payload to LEO||9,800–18,810 kilograms (21,610–41,470 lb)|
|Payload to GTO||4,750–8,900 kilograms (10,470–19,620 lb)|
|Launch sites||Cape Canaveral SLC-41
(401: 32, 411: 3, 421: 6, 431: 2)
(501: 6, 521: 2, 531: 3, 541: 3, 551: 7)
(401: 31, 411: 3, 421: 6, 431: 2)
(501: 6, 521: 2, 531: 3, 541: 3, 551: 7)
|Partial failures||1 (401)|
|First flight||401: 21 August 2002
411: 20 April 2006
421: 10 October 2007
431: 11 March 2005
501: 22 April 2010
521: 17 July 2003
531: 14 August 2010
541: 26 November 2011
551: 19 January 2006
|Notable payloads||Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Solar Dynamics Observatory
Mars Science Laboratory
|Boosters - AJ-60A|
|No. boosters||0 to 5|
|Length||17.0 m (669 in)|
|Diameter||1.6 m (62 in)|
|Gross mass||46,697 kg (102,949 lb)|
|Thrust||1,688.4 kN (379,600 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||279.3 seconds (2.739 km/s)|
|Burn time||94 seconds|
|Boosters (Heavy, cancelled) - Atlas CCB|
|Length||32.46 m (106.5 ft)|
|Diameter||3.81 m (12.5 ft)|
|Empty mass||23,648 kg (52,135 lb)|
|Propellant mass||286,795 kg (632,275 lb)|
|Thrust||3,827 kN (860,000 lbf) (SL)
4,152 kN (933,000 lbf) (Vac)
|Specific impulse||311.3 seconds (3.053 km/s) (SL)
337.8 seconds (3.313 km/s) (Vac)
|Burn time||253 seconds|
|First stage - Atlas CCB|
|Length||32.46 m (106.5 ft)|
|Diameter||3.81 m (12.5 ft)|
|Empty mass||21,054 kg (46,416 lb)|
|Propellant mass||284,089 kg (626,309 lb)|
|Thrust||3,827 kN (860,000 lbf) (SL)
4,152 kN (933,000 lbf) (Vac)
|Specific impulse||311.3 seconds (3.053 km/s) (SL)
337.8 seconds (3.313 km/s) (Vac)
|Burn time||253 seconds|
|Second stage - Centaur|
|Length||12.68 m (41.6 ft)|
|Diameter||3.05 m (10.0 ft)|
|Empty mass||2,316 kg (5,106 lb)|
|Propellant mass||20,830 kg (45,920 lb)|
|Engines||1 RL10A or 1 RL10C|
|Thrust||99.2 kN (22,300 lbf) (RL10A)|
|Specific impulse||450.5 seconds (4.418 km/s) (RL10A-4-2)|
|Burn time||842 seconds (RL10A-4-2)|
Atlas V is an active expendable launch system in the Atlas rocket family. Atlas V was formerly operated by Lockheed Martin, and is now operated by the Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA). Each Atlas V rocket uses a Russian-built RD-180 engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen to power its first stage and an American-built RL10 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to power its Centaur upper stage. The RD-180 engines are provided by RD Amross, while Aerojet Rocketdyne provides both the RL10 engines and the strap-on boosters used in some configurations. The standard payload fairing sizes are 4 or 5 meters in diameter and of various lengths. Fairings sizes as large as 7.2 m in diameter and up to 32.3 m in length have been considered. The rocket is assembled in Decatur, Alabama and Harlingen, Texas.
- 1 Vehicle description
- 2 Variants
- 3 Cost
- 4 Atlas V launches
- 5 Proposed development options
- 6 Successor
- 7 Photo gallery
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Atlas V was developed by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services as part of the US Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program and made its inaugural flight on August 21, 2002. The vehicle operates out of Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Space Launch Complex 3-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services continues to market the Atlas V to commercial customers worldwide.
Atlas V first stage
The Atlas V first stage, the Common Core Booster (CCB), is 12.5 ft (3.8 m) in diameter and 106.6 ft (32.5 m) in length. It is powered by a single Russian RD-180 main engine burning 627,105 lb (284,450 kg) of liquid oxygen and RP-1. The booster operates for about four minutes, providing about 4 meganewtons (860,000 lbf) of thrust. Thrust can be augmented with up to five Aerojet strap-on solid rocket boosters, each providing an additional 1.27 meganewtons (285,500 lbf) of thrust for 94 seconds.
The Atlas V is the newest member of the Atlas family. Compared to the Atlas III vehicle, there are numerous changes. Compared to the Atlas II, the first stage is a near-redesign. There was no Atlas IV.
- The "1.5 staging" technique was dropped on the Atlas III, although the same RD-180 engine is used. The RD-180 features a dual-combustion chamber, dual-nozzle design and is fueled by a kerosene/liquid oxygen mixture.
- The main-stage diameter increased from 10 feet to 12.5 feet. As with the Atlas III, the different mixture ratio of the engine called for a larger oxygen tank (relative to the fuel tank) compared to Western engines and stages.
- The first stage tanks no longer use stainless steel monocoque "balloon" construction. The tanks are isogrid aluminum and are structurally stable when unpressurized.
- Use of aluminum, with a higher thermal conductivity than stainless steel, requires insulation for the liquid oxygen. The tanks are covered in a polyurethane-based layer.
- Accommodation points for parallel stages, both smaller solids and identical liquids, are built into first stage structures.
Centaur upper stage
The Centaur upper stage uses a pressure stabilized propellant tank design and cryogenic propellants. The Centaur stage for Atlas V is stretched 5.5 ft (1.68 m) relative to the Atlas IIAS Centaur and is powered by either one or two Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2 engines, each engine developing a thrust of 99.2 kN (22,300 lbf). The inertial navigation unit (INU) located on the Centaur provides guidance and navigation for both the Atlas and Centaur, and controls both Atlas and Centaur tank pressures and propellant use. The Centaur engines are capable of multiple in-space starts, making possible insertion into low Earth parking orbit, followed by a coast period and then insertion into GTO. A subsequent third burn following a multi-hour coast can permit direct injection of payloads into geostationary orbit. As of 2006[update], the Centaur vehicle had the highest proportion of burnable propellant relative to total mass of any modern hydrogen upper stage and hence can deliver substantial payloads to a high energy state.
The standard payload fairing sizes are 4 or 5 meters in diameter. The 4.2-meter fairing, originally designed for the Atlas II booster, comes in three different lengths, the original 9-meter high version, as well as fairings 10 meters (first flown on the AV-008/Astra 1KR launch) and 11 meters (seen on the AV-004/Inmarsat-4 F1 launch) high. Lockheed Martin had the 5.4-meter (4.57 meters usable) payload fairing for the Atlas V developed and built by RUAG Space (former Oerlikon Space[full citation needed]) in Switzerland.[not in citation given] The RUAG fairing uses carbon fiber composite construction, based on flight-proven hardware from the Ariane 5. Three configurations will be manufactured to support the Atlas V. The short (10-meter long) and medium (13-meter long) configurations will be used on the Atlas V 500 series. The 16-meter long configuration would be used on the Atlas V Heavy. The classic fairing covers only the payload, leaving the Centaur stage exposed to open air. The RUAG fairing encloses the Centaur stage as well as the payload.
Many systems on the Atlas V have been the subject of upgrade and enhancement both prior to the first Atlas V flight and since that time. Work on a new Fault Tolerant Inertial Navigation Unit (FTINU) started in 2001 to enhance mission reliability for Atlas vehicles by replacing the existing non-redundant navigation and computing equipment with a fault tolerant unit.[full citation needed] The upgraded FTINU first flew in 2006,[full citation needed] and in 2010 a follow-on order for more FTINU units was awarded.[full citation needed]
Atlas V CTS (Crew Transportation System)
From 2006 through at least 2014 ULA made proposals and did some amount of design work for a human-rated version of the Atlas V. Atlas V was selected by NASA in late 2014, in conjunction with the Boeing CST-100 space capsule, to be used for human flight as early as 2017.
The work began as early as 2006, by ULA's predecessor company Lockheed Martin. An agreement between Lockheed and Bigelow Aerospace that year was reported that could lead to commercial private trips to low Earth orbit (LEO).
Beginning in 2010, ULA did design and simulation work to human-rate the Atlas V for carrying passengers. ULA won a 2010 small contract of US$6,700,000 in the first phase of the NASA Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev) to develop an Emergency Detection System (EDS) for human-rating the Atlas V launch vehicle. As of February 2011[update], ULA "is still finishing up work on its $6.7-million award... In December ULA carried out a demonstration of its Emergency Detection System ... The company said it received an extension from NASA until April 2011 'to enable us to finish critical timing analyses tasks' for [the] fault coverage analysis work."
NASA solicited proposals for CCDev phase 2 in October 2010, under which ULA made a proposal for funding to "finish designing a key safety system for potential commercial crew launches on its Atlas and Delta rocket fleet." While NASA's goal then was to get astronauts to orbit by 2015, ULA President and CEO Michael Gass stated "I think we need to stretch our goals to have commercial crew service operating by 2014" and committed ULA to meet that schedule if funded. Other than the addition of the Emergency Detection System, no major changes were expected to the Atlas V rocket, but ground infrastructure modifications were planned. The most likely candidate for the human-rating was the 402 configuration, with dual RL10 engines on the Centaur upper stage and no solid rocket boosters.
On July 18, 2011 NASA and ULA announced an agreement on the possibility of certifying the Atlas V to NASA's "human-rating" standards. ULA agreed to provide NASA with data on the Atlas V, while NASA would provide ULA with draft human certification requirements. As of July 2011[update] Bigelow Aerospace was still considering the use of a human-rated Atlas V for carrying spaceflight participants to its private space station.
In 2011, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) picked the Atlas V to be the booster for its still-under-development Dream Chaser crewed spacecraft. The Dream Chaser is designed to be a crewed vertical-takeoff, horizontal-landing (VTHL) lifting-body spaceplane that will be placed into LEO by an Atlas V, and is a proposed CCDev ISS crew transport vehicle. However, in late 2014 NASA did not select the Dream Chaser to be one of the two vehicles selected under the Commercial Crew competition.
On August 4, 2011 Boeing announced it would use the Atlas V as the initial launch vehicle for its CST-100 crewed spaceship, intended for both NASA-funded trips to the International Space Station, as well as for private trips to the proposed Bigelow Commercial Space Station. As of August 2011[update], a three-flight test program had been projected to be completed by 2015, and potentially certify the Atlas V/CST-100 combination for human-spaceflight operations. The first flight was expected to include an Atlas V rocket integrated with an unpiloted CST-100 capsule, to launch from Cape Canaveral's LC-41 in early 2015 into LEO, with the second flight hoped to be an in-flight launch abort system demonstration in the middle of that year, and the test-flight phase expected to culminate with a crewed mission at the end of 2015, carrying two Boeing test-pilot astronauts into LEO and returning them safely. In August 2012, George Sowers, ULA's vice president for Human Launch Services, stated that if funded, the first manned flight of the Atlas V could occur by late 2015. As of 2015, delays in the program had resulted in the two orbital demonstration missions being pushed back to mid-2017.
New Solid Boosters
In 2015, ULA announced that the Aerojet Rocketdyne-produced AJ-60A SRBs currently in use on Atlas V will be phased out in favor of new GEM 63 boosters produced by Orbital ATK. A stretched version of this booster will be used on the upcoming Vulcan rocket.
Each Atlas V booster configuration has a three-digit designation that indicates the features of that configuration. The first digit shows the diameter (in meters) of the payload fairing, and always has a value of "4" or "5". The second digit indicates the number of solid rocket boosters attached to the base of the rocket, and can range from "0" through "3" with the 4-meter fairing, and "0" through "5" with the 5-meter fairing. The third digit represents the number of engines on the Centaur stage, either "1" or "2". For example, an Atlas V 552 has a 5-meter fairing, five solid rocket boosters, and two Centaur engines, whereas an Atlas V 431 has a 4-meter fairing, three solid rocket boosters, and a single Centaur engine. As of 2014[update], only the single-engine Centaur (SEC) has been used, with the first launch using the dual-engine Centaur (DEC) upper stage planned for November 2016, when an Atlas V 402 will carry the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser vehicle for its first orbital test flight.
As of June 2015, all versions of the Atlas V, its design and production rights, and intellectual property rights are owned by ULA and Lockheed Martin.
List Date: July 28, 2016 Mass to LEO numbers are at an inclination of 28.5 degrees.
|Version||Fairing||CCBs||SRBs||Upper stage||Payload to LEO||Payload to GTO||Launches to date|
|401||4 m||1||–||SEC||9,797 kg||4,750 kg||32|
|402||4 m||1||–||DEC||12,500 kg||–||0|
|411||4 m||1||1||SEC||12,150 kg||5,950 kg||3|
|421||4 m||1||2||SEC||14,067 kg||6,890 kg||6|
|431||4 m||1||3||SEC||15,718 kg||7,700 kg||2|
|501||5.4 m||1||–||SEC||8,123 kg||3,775 kg||6|
|511||5.4 m||1||1||SEC||10,986 kg||5,250 kg||0|
|521||5.4 m||1||2||SEC||13,490 kg||6,475 kg||2|
|531||5.4 m||1||3||SEC||15,575 kg||7,475 kg||3|
|541||5.4 m||1||4||SEC||17,443 kg||8,290 kg||3|
|551||5.4 m||1||5||SEC||18,814 kg||8,900 kg||7|
|552||5.4 m||1||5||DEC||20,520 kg||–||0|
|Heavy (HLV/5H1)||5.4 m||3||–||SEC||–||–||0|
|Heavy (HLV DEC/5H2)||5.4 m||3||–||DEC||29,400 kg||–||0|
ULA does not publicly advertise a price for an Atlas V launch, and so cost data is limited. However what is known is that the basic 401 is the least expensive configuration, with cost increasing as SRBs are added. According to a NASA document, each SRB added to the Atlas V adds roughly $10 million to the launch cost.
The cost of the Atlas V has decreased over time. In 2010, NASA contracted with ULA to launch the MAVEN mission on an Atlas V 401 for approximately $187 million. The 2013 cost of this configuration for the Air Force under their block buy of 36 rockets was $164 million. In 2015, an Atlas V 401 cost $132.4 million, which was the contract price for the launch of NASA's TDRS-M mission. As of May 2016, this is the most recent known price, and includes "launch service, spacecraft processing, payload integration, tracking, data and telemetry, and other launch support requirements."
NASA and Air Force launch costs are often higher than equivalent commercial missions, due to additional government accounting, analysis, and processing requirements. However, since around 2005, Atlas V has not been cost-competitive for most commercial launches, where launch costs were about $100 million per satellite to GTO in 2013.
Atlas V launches
List Date: July 28, 2016
|#||Date and time(UTC)||Type||Serial no.||Launch site||Payload||Type of payload||Orbit||Outcome||Remarks|
|1||August 21, 2002
|401||AV-001||CCAFS SLC-41||Hot Bird 6||Commercial communications satellite||GSO||Success ||First Atlas V launch|
|2||May 13, 2003
|401||AV-002||CCAFS SLC-41||Hellas Sat 2||Commercial communications satellite||GSO||Success ||First satellite for Greece and Cyprus|
|3||July 17, 2003
|521||AV-003||CCAFS SLC-41||Rainbow 1||Commercial communications satellite||GSO||Success ||First Atlas V 500 launch
First Atlas V launch with SRBs
|4||December 17, 2004
|521||AV-005||CCAFS SLC-41||AMC 16||Commercial communications satellite||GSO||Success|
|5||March 11, 2005
|431||AV-004||CCAFS SLC-41||Inmarsat 4-F1||Commercial communications satellite||GSO||Success ||First Atlas V 400 launch with SRBs|
|6||August 12, 2005
|401||AV-007||CCAFS SLC-41||Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter||Mars orbiter||Heliocentric to
|Success||First Atlas V launch for NASA|
|7||January 19, 2006
|551||AV-010||CCAFS SLC-41||New Horizons||Pluto and Kuiper Belt probe||Hyperbolic||Success||Boeing Star 48B third stage used, first Atlas V launch with a third stage|
|8||April 20, 2006
|411||AV-008||CCAFS SLC-41||Astra 1KR||Commercial communications satellite||GSO||Success|
|9||March 8, 2007
|401||AV-013||CCAFS SLC-41||Space Test Program-1||6 military research satellites||LEO||Success|
|10||June 15, 2007
|401||AV-009||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-194 (NRO L-30/NOSS-4-3A & B)||Two NRO Reconnaissance satellites||LEO||Partial failure (payload reached lower than intended orbit; customer declared success) ||First Atlas V flight for the National Reconnaissance Office|
|11||October 11, 2007
|421||AV-011||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-195 (WGS SV-1)||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success||Valve replacement|
|12||December 10, 2007
|401||AV-015||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-198 (NRO L-24)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||Molniya||Success|
|13||March 13, 2008
|411||AV-006||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-200 (NRO L-28)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||Molniya||Success||First Atlas V launch from Vandenberg|
|14||April 14, 2008
|421||AV-014||CCAFS SLC-41||ICO G1||Commercial communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|15||April 4, 2009
|421||AV-016||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-204 (WGS SV2)||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|16||June 18, 2009
|401||AV-020||CCAFS SLC-41||LRO/LCROSS||Lunar exploration||HEO to Lunar||Success||First Centaur stage to impact on the Moon.|
|17||September 8, 2009
|401||AV-018||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-207 (PAN)||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|18||October 18, 2009
|401||AV-017||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-210 (DMSP 5D3-F18)||Military weather satellite||LEO||Success|
|19||November 23, 2009
|431||AV-024||CCAFS SLC-41||Intelsat 14||Commercial communications satellite||GTO||Success||LMCLS launch|
|20||February 11, 2010
|401||AV-021||CCAFS SLC-41||SDO||Solar Observatory||GTO||Success|
|21||April 22, 2010
|501||AV-012||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-212 (X-37B OTV-1)||Military orbital test vehicle||LEO||Success||A piece of the external fairing did not break up on impact, but washed up on Hilton Head Island.|
|22||August 14, 2010
|531||AV-019||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-214 (AEHF-1)||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|23||September 21, 2010
|501||AV-025||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-215 (NRO L-41)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||LEO||Success|
|24||March 5, 2011
|501||AV-026||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-226 (X-37B OTV-2)||Military orbital test vehicle||LEO||Success|
|25||April 15, 2011
|411||AV-027||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-229 (NRO L-34)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||LEO||Success|
|26||May 7, 2011
|401||AV-022||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-230 (SBIRS-GEO-1)||Missile Warning satellite||GTO||Success|
|27||August 5, 2011
|551||AV-029||CCAFS SLC-41||Juno||Jupiter orbiter||Hyperbolic to
|28||November 26, 2011
|541||AV-028||CCAFS SLC-41||Mars Science Laboratory||Mars rover||Hyperbolic
|Success||First launch of the 541 configuation
Centaur entered orbit around the sun
|29||February 24, 2012
|551||AV-030||CCAFS SLC-41||MUOS-1||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success||
|30||May 4, 2012
|531||AV-031||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-235 (AEHF-2)||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|31||June 20, 2012
|401||AV-023||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-236 (NROL-38)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||GEO||Success||50th EELV launch|
|32||August 30, 2012
|401||AV-032||CCAFS SLC-41||Van Allen Probes (RBSP)||Van Allen Belts exploration||MEO||Success|
|33||September 13, 2012
|401||AV-033||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-238 (NROL-36)||NRO reconnaissance satellites||LEO||Success|
|34||December 11, 2012
|501||AV-034||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-240 (X-37B OTV-3)||Military orbital test vehicle||LEO||Success|
|35||January 31, 2013
|401||AV-036||CCAFS SLC-41||TDRS-11 (TDRS-K)||Data relay satellite||GTO||Success|
|36||February 11, 2013
|401||AV-035||VAFB SLC-3E||Landsat 8||Earth Observation satellite||LEO||Success||First West Coast Atlas V Launch for NASA|
|37||March 19, 2013
|401||AV-037||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-241 (SBIRS-GEO 2)||Missile Warning satellite||GTO||Success|
|38||May 15, 2013
|401||AV-039||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-242 (GPS IIF-4)||Navigation satellite||MEO||Success||*First GPS satellite launched by an Atlas V
|39||July 19, 2013
|551||AV-040||CCAFS SLC-41||MUOS-2||Military Communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|40||September 18, 2013
|531||AV-041||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-246 (AEHF-3)||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|41||November 18, 2013
|401||AV-038||CCAFS SLC-41||MAVEN||Mars orbiter||Hyperbolic to
|42||December 6, 2013
|501||AV-042||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-247 (NROL-39)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||LEO||Success|
|43||January 24, 2014
|401||AV-043||CCAFS SLC-41||TDRS-12 (TDRS-L)||Data relay satellite||GTO||Success|
|44||April 3, 2014
|401||AV-044||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-249 (DMSP-5D3 F19)||Military weather satellite||LEO||Success||50th RD-180 launch|
|45||April 10, 2014
|541||AV-045||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-250 (NROL-67)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||GEO||Success|
|46||May 22, 2014
|401||AV-046||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-252 (NROL-33)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||GEO||Success|
|47||August 2, 2014
|401||AV-048||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-256 (GPS IIF-7)||Navigation satellite||MEO||Success|
|48||August 13, 2014
|401||AV-047||VAFB SLC-3E||WorldView-3||Earth imaging satellite||LEO||Success|
|49||September 17, 2014
|401||AV-049||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-257 (CLIO)||Military communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|50||October 29, 2014
|401||AV-050||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-258 (GPS IIF-8)||Navigation satellite||MEO||Success||50th Atlas V launch|
|51||December 13, 2014
|541||AV-051||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-259 (NROL-35)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||Molniya||Success||First use of the RL-10C engine on the Centaur stage|
|52||January 21, 2015
|551||AV-052||CCAFS SLC-41||MUOS-3||Military Communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|53||March 13, 2015
|421||AV-053||CCAFS SLC-41||MMS||Magnetosphere research satellites||HTO||Success|
|54||May 20, 2015
|501||AV-054||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-261 (X-37B OTV-4/AFSPC-5)||Military orbital test vehicle||LEO||Success|
|55||July 15, 2015
|401||AV-055||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-262 (GPS IIF-10)||Navigation satellite||MEO||Success|
|56||September 2, 2015
|551||AV-056||CCAFS SLC-41||MUOS-4||Military Communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|57||October 2, 2015
|421||AV-059||CCAFS SLC-41||Mexsat-2||Communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|58||October 8, 2015
|401||AV-058||VAFB SLC-3E||USA-264 (NROL-55)||NRO reconnaissance satellites||LEO||Success|
|59||October 31, 2015
|401||AV-060||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-265 (GPS IIF-11)||Navigation satellite||MEO||Success|
|60||December 6, 2015
|401||AV-061||CCAFS SLC-41||Cygnus CRS OA-4||ISS logistics spacecraft||LEO||Success||First Atlas rocket used to directly support the ISS program|
|61||February 5, 2016
|401||AV-057||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-266 (GPS IIF-12)||Navigation satellite||MEO||Success|
|62||March 23, 2016
|401||AV-064||CCAFS SLC-41||Cygnus CRS OA-6||ISS logistics spacecraft||LEO||Success||First stage shut down early but did not affect mission outcome|
|63||June 24, 2016
|551||AV-063||CCAFS SLC-41||MUOS-5||Military Communications satellite||GTO||Success|
|64||July 28, 2016
|421||AV-065||CCAFS SLC-41||USA-267 (NROL-61)||NRO reconnaissance satellite||GTO (?)||Success|
List of Atlas launches (2010–2019)
The first payload launched with an Atlas V was the Hot Bird 6 communications satellite launched from Cape Canaveral in a 401 configuration. It carried the communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) on August 21, 2002.
On August 12, 2005, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Centaur upper stage of the rocket completed its burns over a fifty-six-minute period and placed MRO into an interplanetary transfer orbit towards Mars
On January 19, 2006, New Horizons was launched by a Lockheed Martin Atlas V 551 rocket, with a third stage added to increase the heliocentric (escape) speed. This was the first launch of the Atlas V 551 configuration, which uses five solid rocket boosters, and the first Atlas V with a third stage.
Mission success record
In its more than sixty launches, starting with its maiden launch in August 2002, Atlas V has had a perfect mission success rate. However, there have been two anomalous flights that – while still successful in their mission – have prompted a grounding of the Atlas fleet while investigations determined the root cause of their problems.
The first anomalous event in the use of the Atlas V launch system occurred on June 15, 2007, when the engine in the Centaur upper stage of an Atlas V shut down early, leaving its payload – a pair of NRO L-30 ocean surveillance satellites – in a lower than intended orbit. The cause of the anomaly was traced to a leaky valve, which allowed fuel to leak during the coast between the first and second burns. The resulting lack of fuel caused the second burn to terminate 4 seconds early. Replacing the valve led to a delay in the next Atlas V launch. However, the customer, the National Reconnaissance Office, categorized the mission as a success.
Another flight on March 23, 2016, suffered an underperformance anomaly on the first stage burn and shut down five seconds early. The Centaur proceeded to boost the Orbital Cygnus payload, the heaviest on an Atlas to date, into the intended orbit by utilizing its fuel reserves to make up for the shortfall from the first stage. This longer burn cut short a later Centaur disposal burn. An investigation of the incident revealed that this anomaly was due to a fault in the main engine mixture-ratio supply valve, which restricted the flow of fuel to the engine. The investigation and subsequent examination of the valves on upcoming missions lead to a delay of the next several launches.
Proposed development options
Replacement for the RD-180 engine
Geopolitical and US political considerations in 2014 led to an effort by ULA to consider the possible replacement of the Russian-supplied RD-180 engine used on the first stage booster of the Atlas V. Formal study contracts were issued in June 2014 to a number of US rocket engine suppliers. The results of those studies have led to decisions by ULA to develop a new launch vehicle to replace the Atlas V and Delta IV existing fleet.
The Aerojet AR-1 rocket engine under development as of 2015, is a backup plan to the successor rocket Vulcan, to re-engine the Atlas V. In addition to the ULA backup plan, a consortium of companies including Aerojet and Dynetics seek license production or rights to the Atlas V to manufacture it using the AR-1 engine in place of the RD-180. This proposal has been declined by ULA.
Atlas V HLV
In 2006, ULA offered an Atlas V HLV (Heavy Lift Vehicle) option that would use three Common Core Booster (CCB) stages strapped together to lift a 29,400 kg payload to low Earth orbit. ULA stated at the time that 95% of the hardware required for the Atlas HLV has already been flown on the Atlas V single core vehicles. The lifting capability of the proposed rocket was to be roughly equivalent to the Delta IV Heavy, which utilizes RS-68 engines developed and produced domestically by Aerojet Rocketdyne.
A 2006 report, prepared by the RAND Corporation for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, stated that Lockheed Martin had decided not to develop an Atlas V heavy-lift vehicle (HLV). The report recommended for the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office to "determine the necessity of an EELV heavy-lift variant, including development of an Atlas V Heavy", and to "resolve the RD-180 issue, including coproduction, Stockpile, or U.S. development of an RD-180 replacement."
In March 2015, United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno confirmed on Twitter that the Atlas V HLV will not be developed, instead they would be focusing on the Next Gen Launch System (Vulcan).
Atlas Phase 2
With the merger of Boeing and Lockheed Martin space operations into United Launch Alliance in the mid-2000s, the Atlas V program became able to share the tooling and processes for 5-meter-diameter stages used on Delta IV. This led to a concept being put forth to combine Delta IV production processes into a new Atlas design: the "Atlas Phase 2". If the first stage were to be 5 meters in diameter, such a stage could accept dual RD-180 engines. The conceptual heavy-lift vehicle was known as Atlas Phase 2 or "PH2".
An Atlas V PH2-Heavy (three 5 m stages in parallel; six RD-180s) along with Shuttle-derived, Ares V and Ares V Lite, was considered as a theoretically-possible heavy lifter for use in future space missions in the Augustine Report. If built, the Atlas PH2 HLV was projected to be able to launch a payload mass of approximately 70 metric tons into an orbit of 28.5 degree-inclination. None of the Atlas V Phase 2 proposals reached development.
The Atlas V Common Core Booster was to have been used as the first stage of the joint US-Japanese GX rocket, which was scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2012. GX launches would have been from the Atlas V launch complex at Vandenberg AFB, SLC-3E.
In December 2009, the Japanese government decided to cancel the GX project.
In September 2014, ULA announced that it has entered into a partnership with Blue Origin to develop the BE-4 LOX/methane engine to replace the RD-180 on a new first stage booster. As the Atlas V core is designed around RP-1 fuel and cannot be retrofitted to use a methane-fueled engine, a new first stage must be developed. This booster will be derived from the first stage tankage of the Delta IV, using two of the 2,400-kilonewton (550,000 lbf)-thrust BE-4 engines. The engine is already in its third year of development by Blue Origin, and ULA expects the new stage and engine to start flying no earlier than 2019.
Vulcan will initially use the same Centaur upper stage as on Atlas V, later to be upgraded to ACES. It will also use a variable number of optional solid rocket boosters, called the GEM 63XL, derived from the new solid boosters planned for Atlas V.
X-37B OTV-1 (Orbital Test Vehicle) being encased in its payload fairing for its April 22, 2010 launch.
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