By Cliff Lethbridge

Atlas-Centaur 1962 Launch, Photo Courtesy NASA

Atlas-Centaur 1962 Launch, Photo Courtesy NASA

Classification: Space Launch Vehicle

Length: 105 feet

Diameter: 10 feet

Date of First Cape Canaveral Launch: May 8, 1962

Date of Final Cape Canaveral Launch: August 11, 1965

Number of Cape Canaveral Launches: 6

The name Atlas-Centaur has come to be applied as a generic name for a variety of Atlas-based first and upper stage combinations which evolved from the Atlas D and remained in use for many years. The first Atlas-Centaur, introduced in 1962, employed the Atlas D missile as first stage and the Convair-developed Centaur as second stage. The Centaur was originally designed to support the launch of the Advent geostationary communications satellite. The original Centaur, called Centaur A, employed two Pratt and Whitney engines which produced a total thrust of 30,000 pounds. The Centaur engines burned a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Improved Centaur second stages designated Centaur B and Centaur C were all initially flown in a similar configuration prior to the debut of an upgraded Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle in 1966. For this reason, early Atlas-Centaur rockets may more accurately be referred to as Atlas-Centaur A, Atlas-Centaur B or Atlas-Centaur C, depending on the type of Centaur upper stage flown.