Atlas V


Atlas V is Lockheed Martin Built Rocket. It is marketed by ILS (International Launch Services). Atlas V was developed under the US Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle programme.


Atlas V is a two stage medium rocket in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EEL) class.

Background History

Atlas V rocket traces its roots back to Atlas D that launched John Glenn and other Mercury orbital flights. Atlas V was developed by Lockheed Martin as a successor to Atlas III. Atlas V first flew as a launcher for Air Force and NASA payloads. It continues to operate alongside Boeing’s Delta rockets after Lockheed Martin formed a joint venture, United Launch Alliance in 2005 and combined their resources to continue launching U.S. government payloads.

Famous Launches

The first flight was launched in 2002 as a launched ro for Air Force . The second launch of the Atlas V launched the HellasSat communications satellite on May 13, 2003.

Some famous planetary probes have been launched by Atlas V and these include Mars Atmosphere Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN), New Horizons, Juno, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity, Osiris-Rex, Boeing X-37B and Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO).

The Rocket

The rocket itself consists of two main stages: the Atlas V Core Booster and Centaur upper stage. The Common Core Booster is 3.9m in diameter and  32.5m long (107 feet). The first stage uses a single RD-180 rocket engine. The RD-180 has dual combustion chambers and outlet nozzles which burn rocket grade kerosine (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOX). The RD-180 generates 285,000kg (627,000lbs) and can be augmented with up to five Aerojet strap-on solid rocket boosters. The RD-180 is Russian built by Energomash. The rocket design is similar to the very efficient Russian R-7 and Soyuz boosters with sold rather than liquid boosters. Each booster can provide an additional 126,000kg (284000ibs) of thirst for 90 seconds.

 Core Stage

The core stage of the Atlas V uses an isogrid aluminium structure rather than the very thin stainless steel balloon design of previous versions of Atlas. As the balloon descpton indicates this has to be pressurised when not fuelled for flight as to would have become structurally unstable. The isogrid aluminium tanks are self-supporting, but must be insulated (like the external tank of Shuttle). The upper stage is a development of the existing Centuary stitched by 1.68m (5,.5 feet) for Atlas V. It is orally powered by a single Aerojet RL-10 engine which dvekopes 10,000kg (22,500lbs) of thus, but a scone RL-10 engine can be fitted. The second RL-10 will be used for the human rated version of Atlas V to provide more powerful progressive thirst and a dregree of redundancy for extra safety. The avoionces for ht econtrl and navigation   of bothe states is house in the Centuar upper stage.

The Centuar uses cryogenic (liquid hydrogen and oxygen) fuels and is currently the most powerful upper stage i service, capable of multiple restarts to send payload sot Geostatrionary orbit (GTO) or to escape velocity (Planetary probes). This peer also allows human and carl spacecraft designed for the Internatkl Space Staiton a linger launch window – up to 30 minus instead of seconds.

The Atlas has a history of 62 launches (June 2016), no failures and only 1 significant anomaly: it is now being human rated and will become one of the few boosters to launch American and international astronauts into low earth orbit from the first piloted test flight of Boeing CST-100 Starliner in 2017. This version of the rocket, the 422 will use two solid rocket boosters and a 2 engine Centaur upper stage for the first unpiloted test flight intended to test every aspect of the launch system and Starliner spacecraft before the piloted flight in July 2017. The mishap to Antares and Cygnus 3 provided an unexpected opportunity for ULA to launch heavy payloads on critical resupply mission to the Internaklional Space Station for Obital ATK and NASA. These flight (Cygnus OA4 and OA6) were very successful though on the OA-6 mission the RD-180 shutdown a few seconds early. This was compensated for by the Centaur Upper Stage having a longer burn.

In 2019 Atlas will also be used to launch the Dream Chaser mini shuttle to the International Space Station on cargo mission.


The process of replacing the Atlas V (and Delta IV) by the Vulcan has begun. Vulcan will use American BE-4 engines from Blue Origin dn have a recoverable engine module.

Atlas V Links

Atlas V Family:

Atlas V – Summary:

Any comments or suggestions, then click on Contact Info.