Ten Things You Should Know About The Atlas V Rocket
Swiss Watch Of Rockets
The Atlas V medium-heavy lift rocket is an expendable launch system operated by the United Launch Alliance (ULA). The first stage utilizes a Russian RD-180 rocket engine (with optional strap-on solid rocket boosters) to place payloads up to 20 tonnes in low Earth orbit. The Atlas V has a near perfect launch record with only one anomalous flight from its 75+ launches.
10 Facts About The Reliable Atlas V Rocket!
- The Atlas V is considered one of the world’s most reliable, and safest, launch vehicles with a perfect launch record over its 75+ successful launches since late 2002! This compares to an industry average success rate of 90-95%.
- The Atlas V is classed as a medium to heavy-lift rocket because it can deliver over 20 tonnes (44,000 lbs) to low Earth orbit (LEO) and nearly 9 tonnes (19,800 lbs) to the higher Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).
- The rocket stands 58 m (190 ft) tall with a width of 8 m (12.5 ft) in diameter and a lift-off weight of 335 tonnes (737,500 lbs)!
- The first stage is powered by a single Russian RD-180 main engine (with a dual combustion chamber & dual-nozzle) burning kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOX) to deliver 860,000 lbf (4,000 kN) of thrust. Up to five strap-on solid rocket boosters can be added depending on mission requirements.
- ULA operates the Atlas V from two launch sites depending on the orbit requirements; polar orbits are launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base and regular inclined orbits (or beyond Earth trajectories) are launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
- It is estimated that it costs launch customers (like NASA, the United States Air Force (USAF) or commercial customers), between USD$110-200 million to launch their payloads with an Atlas V, depending on the configuration and destination. This is increasingly being considered expensive with the emergence of cheaper launch services offered by SpaceX.
- The Atlas V is so reliable that NASA has trusted it to launch many of its important space exploration missions such as the; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, New Horizons spacecraft, OSIRIS-Rex mission and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
- The Atlas V has also been used by the USAF to launch the secretive X-37B spaceplane into orbit! What is it doing up there??
- It is hoped from mid-2018 that the Atlas V will also be used to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule to ferry astronauts for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS).
- The company Sierra Nevada hopes to launch their Dream Chaser spaceplane cargo variant aboard the rocket on resupply missions to the ISS for NASA in the coming years. Looks like the Atlas V is going to continue to be busy!