Aerospace & Defense

Information Technology


Emerging Capabilities

Launch Vehicles

Since their debut in 1957 as America’s first operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Atlas family of launch vehicles has logged nearly 600 flights. Atlas is the only launch system in the world with a continuous first flight mission success history - 8 for 8 in 16 years, making it one of the premier launch systems in the world and the workhorse of the U.S. space program. To date, Atlas has launched 82 consecutive successful flights, a record unmatched in the industry.

Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services (LMCLS), has the responsibility for all Atlas commercial launch service contracts, and performs marketing, sales and mission management for commercial Atlas missions.In December 2006 Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company formed a new joint venture, United Launch Alliance, which combines the successful Atlas and Delta launch vehicle programs to provide launch services toU.S. government customers.   United Launch Alliance is responsible for Atlas engineering, program management, test and mission support functions at its headquarters location in Denver, Colo.  Manufacturing,, assembly and integration operations are located at ULA facilities in Decatur, Ala.; Harlingen, Tex.; and San Diego, Calif.  Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif

The desire to continually enhance the competitiveness and schedule reliability of the Atlas launch system for the commercial marketplace and U.S. government needs led to the series of upgrades that produced the Atlas II, Atlas III and the Atlas V configurations. These improvements have included lengthened propellant tanks for both Atlas and Centaur, upgrades to the propulsion systems and avionics systems, improved software and mission design capabilities, and improved launch system infrastructure.

The new generation, the Atlas V, is the worthy successor to the 100% successful Atlas II and III programs. Built modularly with flight-proven elements, Atlas V has followed a carefully executed program of incremental improvements resulting in 100% mission success.

Making its debut on August 21, 2002, the Atlas V launch vehicle has successfully flown eight times. Applying state-of-the-art designs, materials and processes, the Atlas V launch vehicles, including the 400 Series and 500 Series, offer our customers maximum flexibility, capability and reliability.

The Atlas V family of launch vehicles offers:

  • Significantly enhanced capability by implementing a structurally stable Common Core Booster™ stage powered by the RD-180 engine produced by the RD AMROSS joint venture between Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of the United States and NPO Energomash of Russia. The RD-180 engine throttleable over a wide range and develops a liftoff thrust of 3.8 MN (860,000 lbf).
  • Provisions for adding up to five Aerojet Atlas V strap-on solid rocket boosters to Common Core Booster stage. These solid rocket boosters enable the Atlas to flexibly and competitively meet varied performance requirements for missions from low-Earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit and beyond.
  •  A Centaur stage configured with either one or two Pratt & Whitney-manufactured RL10 engines to optimally meet various spacecraft mission requirements.
  • The option of either a 4-meter diameter Atlas-heritage design payload fairing or a 5-meter diameter Contraves-manufactured payload fairing. Both flight-proven fairings are offered in three lengths to more precisely accommodate customer requirements.

More operationally efficient than previous systems, the Atlas V significantly reduces the time required to process and prepare each vehicle for launch, thus enabling greater flexibility in meeting customer launch schedule requirements. The Atlas V is launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Preparations have been completed to provide Atlas V launches from Space Launch Complex 3-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Major Suppliers
BF Goodrich—Digital acquisition system
EADS CASA—Conical interstage adapters
Oerlikon Contraves AG —5-meter diameter payload fairing
GenCorp Aerojet—Sap-on solid rocket boosters
Honeywell Space Systems—Inertial Navigation Unit (INU)
RD AMROSS—RD-180 propulsion system
Saab Ericsson Space—Pyload separation systems
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne—RL10 engines for the Centaur



Atlas/Centaur History Fact Sheet

Atlas V  Fact Sheet