Countdown to Launch: Top Five Atlas Moments

With its inception at a ballistic missile and transition to a launch vehicle, the Atlas family of rockets has an unparalleled success rate of 117 consecutive successful launches. Over the last 50+ years, Atlas has launched people into space, sent spacecraft to other planets, and enabled communications on earth. Here’s a look back at some of Atlas’ most memorable moments.

1.        Launching the First American to Orbit the Earth

Friendship 7 Atlas launched John Glenn into space, making him the first American orbit the earth and the fifth person ever in space. Photo: NASA

2.        Enabling Broadcast Communications

Atlas V The maiden flight of the Atlas V – the same family of rockets that will launch the WorldView-3 satellite on Aug. 13 – launched Hot Bird 6 into geosynchronous transfer orbit in 2002. Still serving today, the satellite provides communications to the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe. These Atlas boosters, in production at Lockheed Martin, supported the maiden flight of Atlas V (AV00-1).

3.        Exploring Mars           

atlas-mars-screen The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2006 and MAVEN in 2013 were both launched aboard Atlas and headed to Mars. The Orbiter produced high-resolution images of the planet and helped determine the landing site for Lockheed Martin’s Phoenix Mars Lander. MAVEN will reach MARS in September 2014 and will study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting the planet.

4.        Heavy Lifting

MUOS In 2013, Atlas boosted its heaviest payload to date when it launched a military satellite designed to improve communications for troop’s on-the-move. Weighing in at nearly 15,000 pounds, the Lockheed Martin Mobile User Objective System is one of five satellites that will be delivered to the U.S. Navy.

5.        Headed to Jupiter

Juno Atlas launched the Juno satellite in 2011. Juno is now completing the nearly five year trip to the planet Jupiter where it will study Jupiter's origins, gravity field and polar magnetosphere. Image: NASA