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Atlas V
Atlas V(401) launches with LRO and LCROSS cropped.jpg
Launch of an Atlas V 401 carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCROSS space probes on June 18, 2009
FunctionMedium-lift launch vehicle
ManufacturerUnited Launch Alliance
Country of originUnited States
Cost per launchUS$110 million in 2016[1]
Height58.3 m (191 ft)
Diameter3.81 m (12.5 ft)
Mass590,000 kg (1,300,000 lb)
Payload to LEO
Mass8,250–20,520 kg (18,190–45,240 lb)
Payload to GTO
Mass4,750–8,900 kg (10,470–19,620 lb)
Associated rockets
FamilyAtlas (rocket family)
Derived fromAtlas III
Launch history
Launch sitesCape Canaveral SLC-41
Vandenberg SLC-3E
Total launches85
(401: 38, 411: 6, 421: 7, 431: 3)
(501: 7, 521: 2, 531: 3, 541: 7, 551: 11)
(N22: 1)
(401: 38, 411: 6, 421: 7, 431: 3)
(501: 7, 521: 2, 531: 3, 541: 7, 551: 11)
(N22: 1)
First flight21 August 2002 (Eutelsat 8 West C)
Last flightActive
Notable payloads
Boosters – AJ-60A[2]
No. boosters0 to 5
Length17.0 m (669 in)[2]
Diameter1.6 m (62 in)[2]
Gross mass46,697 kg (102,949 lb)
Propellant mass42,630 kg (93,980 lb)[3]
Thrust1,688.4 kN (379,600 lbf)
Specific impulse279.3 s (2.739 km/s)
Burn time94 seconds
Boosters – GEM-63[4][5]
No. boosters0 to 5
Length20.1 m (790 in)[4]
Diameter1.6 m (63 in)[4]
Gross mass49,300 kg (108,700 lb)
Propellant mass44,200 kg (97,400 lb)[4]
Thrust1,663 kN (374,000 lbf)
Burn time94 seconds
First stage – Atlas CCB
Length32.46 m (106.5 ft)
Diameter3.81 m (12.5 ft)
Empty mass21,054 kg (46,416 lb)
Propellant mass284,089 kg (626,309 lb)
Engines1 RD-180
Thrust3,827 kN (860,000 lbf) (SL)
4,152 kN (933,000 lbf) (vac)
Specific impulse311.3 s (3.053 km/s) (SL)
337.8 s (3.313 km/s) (vac)
Burn time253 seconds
FuelRP-1 / LOX
Second stage – Centaur
Length12.68 m (41.6 ft)
Diameter3.05 m (10.0 ft)
Empty mass2,316 kg (5,106 lb)
Propellant mass20,830 kg (45,920 lb)
Engines1 RL10A or 1 RL10C (SEC), or 2 RL10A (DEC)
Thrust99.2 kN (22,300 lbf) (RL10A)
Specific impulse450.5 s (4.418 km/s) (RL10A-4-2)
Burn time842 seconds (RL10A-4-2)
FuelLH2 / LOX

Atlas V[a] is an expendable launch system and the fifth major version in the Atlas rocket family. It was originally designed by Lockheed Martin, now being operated by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Lockheed and Boeing.

Each Atlas V rocket consists of two main stages. The first stage is powered by a Russian RD-180 engine manufactured by RD Amross and burning kerosene and liquid oxygen. The Centaur upper stage is powered by one or two US RL10 engine(s) manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne and burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. AJ-60A strap-on solid rocket boosters (SRBs) are used in some configurations and will be replaced by GEM-63 SRBs in the near future. The standard payload fairings are 14 or 18 feet (4.2 or 5.4 m) in diameter with various lengths.[6]

Vehicle description

The Atlas V was developed by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services (LMCLS) as part of the US Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program and made its inaugural flight on August 21, 2002. The vehicle operates from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Space Launch Complex 3-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. LMCLS continued to market the Atlas V to commercial customers worldwide until January 2018, when ULA assumed control of commercial marketing and sales.[7][8]

Atlas V first stage

The Atlas V first stage, the Common Core Booster (CCB), is 12.5 ft (3.8 m) in diameter and 106.6 ft (32.5 m) in length. It is powered by one Russian RD-180 main engine burning 627,105 lb (284,450 kg) of liquid oxygen and RP-1. The booster operates for about four minutes, providing about 900,000 lbf (4 MN) of thrust.[9] Thrust can be augmented with up to five Aerojet strap-on solid rocket boosters, each providing an additional 290,000 lbf (1.27 MN) of thrust for 94 seconds.

The Atlas V is the newest member of the Atlas family. Compared to the Atlas III vehicle, there are numerous changes. Compared to the Atlas II, the first stage is a near-redesign. There was no Atlas IV.

The main differences between the Atlas V and earlier Atlas I and II family rockets are:

  • The first stage tanks no longer use stainless-steel monocoque pressure stabilized "balloon" construction. The tanks are isogrid aluminum and are structurally stable when unpressurized.[9]
  • Use of aluminum, with a higher thermal conductivity than stainless steel, requires insulation for the liquid oxygen. The tanks are covered in a polyurethane-based layer.[citation needed]
  • Accommodation points for parallel stages, both smaller solids and identical liquids, are built into first-stage structures.[9]
  • The "1.5 staging" technique is no longer used, having been discontinued on the Atlas III with the introduction of the Russian RD-180 engine.[9] The RD-180 features a single turbopump feeding dual combustion chambers and nozzles burning kerosene/liquid oxygen propellants.
  • As with the Atlas III, the oxygen tank is larger relative to the fuel tank to accommodate the mixture ratio of the RD-180.
  • The main-stage diameter increased from 10 to 12 ft (3.0 to 3.7 m).[10]

Centaur upper stage

The Centaur upper stage uses a pressure-stabilized propellant-tank design and cryogenic propellants. The Centaur stage for Atlas V is stretched 5.5 ft (1.7 m) relative to the Atlas IIAS Centaur and is powered by either one or two Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2 engines, each engine developing a thrust of 22,300 lbf (99.2 kN). The inertial navigation unit (INU) located on the Centaur provides guidance and navigation for both the Atlas and Centaur and controls both Atlas and Centaur tank pressures and propellant use. The Centaur engines are capable of multiple in-space starts, making possible insertion into low Earth parking orbit, followed by a coast period and then insertion into GTO. A subsequent third burn following a multi-hour coast can permit direct injection of payloads into geostationary orbit.[11] As of 2006, the Centaur vehicle had the highest proportion of burnable propellant relative to total mass of any modern hydrogen upper stage and hence can deliver substantial payloads to a high-energy state.[12]

Payload fairing

Atlas V payload fairings are available in two diameters, depending on satellite requirements. The 14 ft (4.2 m) diameter fairing,[13] originally designed for the Atlas II booster, comes in three different lengths: the original 30 ft-long (9 m) version and extended 33 and 36 ft (10 and 11 m) versions, first flown respectively on the AV-008/Astra 1KR and AV-004/Inmarsat-4 F1 missions. Fairings of up to 24 ft (7.2 m) diameter and 106 ft (32.3 m) length have been considered but were never implemented.[6]

A 18 ft (5.4 m) diameter fairing, with an internally usable diameter of 15.0 ft (4.57 m), was developed and built by RUAG Space[14] in Switzerland. The RUAG fairing uses carbon fiber composite construction and is based on a similar flight-proven fairing for the Ariane 5. Three configurations are manufactured to support the Atlas V: 68 ft (20.7 m), 77 ft (23.4 m), and 87 ft (26.5 m) long.[14] While the classic 14 ft (4.2 m) fairing covers only the payload, the RUAG fairing is much longer and fully encloses both the Centaur upper stage and the payload.[15]


Many systems on the Atlas V have been the subject of upgrade and enhancement both prior to the first Atlas V flight and since that time. Work on a new Fault Tolerant Inertial Navigation Unit (FTINU) started in 2001 to enhance mission reliability for Atlas vehicles by replacing the existing non-redundant navigation and computing equipment with a fault-tolerant unit.[16] The upgraded FTINU first flew in 2006,[17][full citation needed] and in 2010 a follow-on order for more FTINU units was awarded.[18][full citation needed] Later in the decade, the FTINU was replaced with avionics common to both the Atlas V and Delta IV.[citation needed]

Human-rating certification

Proposals and design work to human-rate the Atlas V began as early as 2006, with ULA's parent company Lockheed Martin reporting an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace that was intended to lead to commercial private trips to low Earth orbit (LEO).[19]

Human-rating design and simulation work began in earnest in 2010, with the award of US$6,700,000 in the first phase of the NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to develop an Emergency Detection System (EDS).[20] As of February 2011, ULA had received an extension to April 2011 from NASA and was finishing up work on the EDS.[21]

NASA solicited proposals for CCP phase 2 in October 2010, and ULA proposed to complete design work on the EDS. At the time, NASA's goal was to get astronauts to orbit by 2015. Then-ULA President and CEO Michael Gass stated that a schedule acceleration to 2014 was possible if funded.[22] Other than the addition of the Emergency Detection System, no major changes were expected to the Atlas V rocket, but ground infrastructure modifications were planned. The most likely candidate for the human-rating was the N02 configuration, with no fairing, no solid rocket boosters, and dual RL10 engines on the Centaur upper stage.[22]

On 18 July 2011, NASA and ULA announced an agreement on the possibility of certifying the Atlas V to NASA's standards for human spaceflight.[23] ULA agreed to provide NASA with data on the Atlas V, while NASA would provide ULA with draft human certification requirements.[23] In 2011, the human-rated Atlas V was also still under consideration to carry spaceflight participants to the proposed Bigelow Commercial Space Station.[24]

In 2011, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) picked the Atlas V to be the booster for its still-under-development Dream Chaser crewed spaceplane.[25] The Dream Chaser was intended to launch on an Atlas V, fly a crew to the ISS, and landing horizontally following a lifting-body reentry.[25] However, in late 2014 NASA did not select the Dream Chaser to be one of the two vehicles selected under the Commercial Crew competition.

On 4 August 2011, Boeing announced that it would use the Atlas V as the initial launch vehicle for its CST-100 crew capsule. CST-100 will take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and was also intended to service the proposed Bigelow Commercial Space Station.[26][27] A three-flight test program was projected to be completed by 2015, certifying the Atlas V/CST-100 combination for human spaceflight operations.[27] The first flight was expected to include an Atlas V rocket integrated with an uncrewed CST-100 capsule,[26] the second flight an in-flight launch abort system demonstration in the middle of that year,[27] and the third flight a crewed mission carrying two Boeing test-pilot astronauts into LEO and returning them safely at the end of 2015.[27] These plans did not materialize.

In 2014, NASA selected the Boeing CST-100 space capsule as part of the CCD program after extensive delays. Atlas V is the launch vehicle of the CST-100. The first launch of an uncrewed CST-100 capsule occurred atop a human-rated Atlas V on the morning of December 20, 2019, however an anomaly with the Mission Elapsed Time clock aboard the CST-100 caused the spacecraft to enter a suboptimal orbit.[28] As a result, the CST-100 could not achieve orbital insertion to reach the International Space Station, and instead deorbited after two days.

New solid boosters

In 2015, ULA announced that the Aerojet Rocketdyne-produced AJ-60A solid rocket boosters (SRBs) currently in use on Atlas V will be superseded by new GEM 63 boosters produced by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. The extended GEM-63XL boosters will also be used on the Vulcan rocket that will replace the Atlas V.[29] The first Atlas V launch with GEM 63 boosters is expected in 2020.[30]


Atlas V family with asymmetric SRBs. The HLV was not developed
Atlas V family with asymmetric SRBs. The HLV was not developed
Atlas V 401
Atlas V 401

Each Atlas V booster configuration has a three-digit designation. The first digit shows the diameter (in meters) of the payload fairing and has a value of "4" or "5" for fairing launches and "N" for crew capsule launches (as no payload fairing is used when a crew capsule is launched). The second digit indicates the number of solid rocket boosters (SRBs) attached to the base of the rocket and can range from "0" through "3" with the 4-meter (13 ft) fairing, and "0" through "5" with the 5-meter (16 ft) fairing. As seen in the first image, all SRB layouts are asymmetrical. The third digit represents the number of engines on the Centaur stage, either "1" or "2".

For example, an Atlas V 551 has a 5-meter fairing, 5 SRBs, and 1 Centaur engine, whereas an Atlas V 431 has a 4-meter fairing, 3 SRBs, and 1 Centaur engine.[31] The Atlas V N22 with no fairing, two SRBs, and 2 Centaur engines was first launched in 2019. The flight carried the Starliner vehicle for its first orbital test flight.

As of June 2015, all versions of the Atlas V, its design and production rights, and intellectual property rights are owned by ULA and Lockheed Martin.[32]


List date: August 8, 2019[33] Mass to LEO numbers are at an inclination of 28.5°. Acronyms: Single Engine Centaur (SEC), Dual Engine Centaur (DEC).

Version Fairing CCBs SRBs Upper stage Payload to LEO, kg Payload to GTO, kg Launches to date Base price
401 4 m 1 SEC 9,797[34] 4,750[34] 38 $109M[1]
402 4 m 1 DEC 12,500[35] 0
411 4 m 1 1 SEC 12,150[34] 5,950[34] 5 $115M[1]
412 4 m 1 1 DEC 0
421 4 m 1 2 SEC 14,067[34] 6,890[34] 7 $123M[1]
422 4 m 1 2 DEC 0
431 4 m 1 3 SEC 15,718[34] 7,700[34] 3 $130M[1]
501 5.4 m 1 SEC 8,123[34] 3,775[34] 6 $120M[1]
502 5.4 m 1 DEC 0
511 5.4 m 1 1 SEC 10,986[34] 5,250[34] 0 (1 planned)[36] $130M[1]
512 5.4 m 1 1 DEC 0
521 5.4 m 1 2 SEC 13,490[34] 6,475[34] 2 $135M[1]
522 5.4 m 1 2 DEC 0
531 5.4 m 1 3 SEC 15,575[34] 7,475[34] 3 $140M[1]
532 5.4 m 1 3 DEC 0
541 5.4 m 1 4 SEC 17,443[34] 8,290[34] 6 $145M[1]
542 5.4 m 1 4 DEC 0
551 5.4 m 1 5 SEC 18,814[34] 8,900[34]
10 $153M[1]
552 5.4 m 1 5 DEC 20,520[35] 0
Heavy (HLV / 5H1) 5.4 m 3 SEC 0
Heavy (HLV DEC / 5H2) 5.4 m 3 DEC 29,400 0
N22 (for CST-100 Starliner)[37] None 1 2 DEC ~13,000[38]
(to ISS)

Launch cost

Before 2016, pricing information for Atlas V launches was limited. In 2010, NASA contracted with ULA to launch the MAVEN mission on an Atlas V 401 for approximately $187 million.[39] The 2013 cost of this configuration for the Air Force under their block buy of 36 rockets was $164 million.[40] In 2015, the TDRS-M launch on an Atlas 401 cost NASA $132.4 million.[41]

Starting in 2016, ULA provided pricing for the Atlas V through its RocketBuilder website, advertising a base price for each rocket configuration, which ranges from $109 million for the 401 up to $153 million for the 551.[1] Each additional SRB adds an average of $6.8 million to the cost of the rocket. Customers can also choose to purchase larger payload fairings or additional launch service options. NASA and Air Force launch costs are often higher than equivalent commercial missions due to additional government accounting, analysis, processing, and mission assurance requirements, which can add $30–$80 million to the cost of a launch.[42]

In 2013, launch costs for commercial satellites to GTO averaged about $100 million, significantly lower than historic Atlas V pricing.[43] However, in recent years the price of an Atlas V has dropped from approximately $180 million to $109 million, in large part due to competitive pressure that emerged in the launch services marketplace during the early 2010s. ULA CEO Tory Bruno has stated that ULA needs at least two commercial missions each year in order to stay profitable going forward.[44] ULA is not attempting to win these missions on purely lowest purchase price, stating that it "would rather be the best value provider".[45] ULA suggests that customers will have much lower insurance and delay costs because of the high Atlas V reliability and schedule certainty, making overall customer costs close to that of using competitors like the SpaceX Falcon 9.[46]

Historically proposed versions

In 2006, ULA offered an Atlas V Heavy option that would use three Common Core Booster (CCB) stages strapped together to lift a 64,800 lb (29,400 kg) payload to low Earth orbit.[47] ULA stated at the time that 95% of the hardware required for the Atlas V Heavy has already been flown on the Atlas V single-core vehicles.[6] The lifting capability of the proposed rocket was to be roughly equivalent to the Delta IV Heavy,[6] which uses RS-68 engines developed and produced domestically by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

A 2006 report, prepared by the RAND Corporation for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, stated that Lockheed Martin had decided not to develop an Atlas V heavy-lift vehicle (HLV).[48] The report recommended for the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office to "determine the necessity of an EELV heavy-lift variant, including development of an Atlas V Heavy", and to "resolve the RD-180 issue, including coproduction, stockpile, or U.S. development of an RD-180 replacement".[49]

In 2010, ULA stated that the Atlas V Heavy configuration could be available to customers 30 months from the date of order.[6]

Atlas V PH2

In late 2006, the Atlas V program gained access to the tooling and processes for 5 meter diameter stages used on Delta IV when Boeing and Lockheed Martin space operations were merged into the United Launch Alliance. This led to a proposal to combine the 5 meter diameter Delta IV tankage production processes with dual RD-180 engines, resulting in the Atlas Phase 2.

An Atlas V PH2-Heavy consisting of three 5 meter stages in parallel with six RD-180s was considered in the Augustine Report as a possible heavy lifter for use in future space missions, as well as the Shuttle-derived Ares V and Ares V Lite.[50] If built, the Atlas PH2-Heavy was projected to be able to launch a payload mass of approximately 70 metric tons (150,000 lb) into an orbit of 28.5° inclination.[50] Neither of the Atlas V Phase 2 proposals progressed to development work.

Booster for GX rocket

The Atlas V Common Core Booster was to have been used as the first stage of the joint US-Japanese GX rocket, which was scheduled to make its first flight in 2012.[51] GX launches would have been from the Atlas V launch complex at Vandenberg AFB, SLC-3E. However, the Japanese government decided to cancel the GX project in December 2009.[52]

Out-licensing rejected by ULA

In May 2015, a consortium of companies, including Aerojet and Dynetics, sought to license the production or manufacturing rights to the Atlas V using the AR1 engine in place of the RD-180. The proposal was rejected by ULA.[53]

Atlas V launches

Flight No. Date and time(UTC) Type Serial no. Launch site Payload Type of payload Orbit Outcome Remarks
1 August 21, 2002
401 AV-001 CCAFS SLC-41 Hot Bird 6 Commercial communications satellite (comsat) GTO Success[54] First Atlas V launch
2 May 13, 2003
401 AV-002 CCAFS SLC-41 Hellas Sat 2 Commercial comsat GTO Success[55] First satellite for Greece and Cyprus
3 July 17, 2003
521 AV-003 CCAFS SLC-41 Rainbow 1 Commercial comsat GTO Success[56] First Atlas V 500 launch
First Atlas V launch with SRBs
4 December 17, 2004
521 AV-005 CCAFS SLC-41 AMC 16 Commercial comsat GTO Success[57]
5 March 11, 2005
431 AV-004 CCAFS SLC-41 Inmarsat 4-F1 Commercial comsat GTO Success[58] First Atlas V 400 launch with SRBs
6 August 12, 2005
401 AV-007 CCAFS SLC-41 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars orbiter Heliocentric to
Success[59] First Atlas V launch for NASA
7 January 19, 2006
551 AV-010 CCAFS SLC-41 New Horizons Pluto and Kuiper Belt probe Hyperbolic Success[60] Boeing Star 48B third stage used, first Atlas V launch with a third stage
8 April 20, 2006
411 AV-008 CCAFS SLC-41 Astra 1KR Commercial comsat GTO Success[61]
9 March 9, 2007
401 AV-013 CCAFS SLC-41 Space Test Program-1 6 military research satellites LEO Success[62]
10 June 15, 2007
401 AV-009 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-194 (NRO L-30/NOSS-4-3A & B) Two NRO Reconnaissance satellites LEO Success[63] First Atlas V flight for the National Reconnaissance Office[64] Atlas did not achieve the intended orbit, but payload compensated for shortfall. NRO declared the mission a success.[65]
11 October 11, 2007
421 AV-011 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-195 (WGS SV-1) Military comsat GTO Success[66] Valve replacement delayed launch[67]
12 December 10, 2007
401 AV-015 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-198 (NRO L-24) NRO reconnaissance satellite Molniya Success[68]
13 March 13, 2008
411 AV-006 VAFB SLC-3E USA-200 (NRO L-28) NRO reconnaissance satellite Molniya Success[69] First Atlas V launch from Vandenberg[69]
14 April 14, 2008
421 AV-014 CCAFS SLC-41 ICO G1 Commercial comsat GTO Success[70]
15 April 4, 2009
421 AV-016 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-204 (WGS SV2) Military comsat GTO Success[71]
16 June 18, 2009
401 AV-020 CCAFS SLC-41 LRO/LCROSS Lunar exploration HEO to Lunar Success[72] First Centaur stage to impact on the Moon.
17 September 8, 2009
401 AV-018 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-207 (PAN) Military comsat[73] GTO[73] Success[74] The Centaur upper stage fragmented in orbit about 24 March 2019[75]
18 October 18, 2009
401 AV-017 VAFB SLC-3E USA-210 (DMSP 5D3-F18) Military weather satellite LEO Success[76]
19 November 23, 2009
431 AV-024 CCAFS SLC-41 Intelsat 14 Commercial comsat GTO Success[77] LMCLS launch
20 February 11, 2010
401 AV-021 CCAFS SLC-41 SDO Solar telescope GTO Success[78]
21 April 22, 2010
501 AV-012 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-212 (X-37B OTV-1) Military orbital test vehicle LEO Success[79] A piece of the external fairing did not break up on impact, but washed up on Hilton Head Island.[80]
22 August 14, 2010
531 AV-019 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-214 (AEHF-1) Military comsat GTO Success[81]
23 September 21, 2010
501 AV-025 VAFB SLC-3E USA-215 (NRO L-41) NRO reconnaissance satellite LEO Success[82]
24 March 5, 2011
501 AV-026 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-226 (X-37B OTV-2) Military orbital test vehicle LEO Success[83]
25 April 15, 2011
411 AV-027 VAFB SLC-3E USA-229 (NRO L-34) NRO reconnaissance satellite LEO Success[84]
26 May 7, 2011
401 AV-022 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-230 (SBIRS-GEO-1) Missile Warning satellite GTO Success[85]
27 August 5, 2011
551 AV-029 CCAFS SLC-41 Juno Jupiter orbiter Hyperbolic to
28 November 26, 2011
541 AV-028 CCAFS SLC-41 Mars Science Laboratory Mars rover Hyperbolic
(Mars landing)
Success[87] First launch of the 541 configuation[88]
Centaur entered orbit around the sun[89]
29 February 24, 2012
551 AV-030 CCAFS SLC-41 MUOS-1 Military comsat GTO Success[90]
  • 200th Centaur launch[91]
  • Heaviest payload launched by an Atlas until launch of MUOS-2
30 May 4, 2012
531 AV-031 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-235 (AEHF-2) Military comsat GTO Success[92]
31 June 20, 2012
401 AV-023 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-236 (NROL-38) NRO reconnaissance satellite GTO Success[93] 50th EELV launch
32 August 30, 2012
401 AV-032 CCAFS SLC-41 Van Allen Probes (RBSP) Van Allen Belts exploration HEO Success[94]
33 September 13, 2012
401 AV-033 VAFB SLC-3E USA-238 (NROL-36) NRO reconnaissance satellites LEO Success[95]
34 December 11, 2012
501 AV-034 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-240 (X-37B OTV-3) Military orbital test vehicle LEO Success[96]
35 January 31, 2013
401 AV-036 CCAFS SLC-41 TDRS-K (TDRS-11) Data relay satellite GTO Success[97]
36 February 11, 2013
401 AV-035 VAFB SLC-3E Landsat 8 Earth Observation satellite LEO Success[98] First West Coast Atlas V Launch for NASA
37 March 19, 2013
401 AV-037 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-241 (SBIRS-GEO 2) Missile Warning satellite GTO Success[99]
38 May 15, 2013
401 AV-039 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-242 (GPS IIF-4) Navigation satellite MEO Success[100]
  • First GPS satellite launched by an Atlas V
  • Longest Atlas V mission to date
39 July 19, 2013
551 AV-040 CCAFS SLC-41 MUOS-2 Military comsat GTO Success[101]
40 September 18, 2013
531 AV-041 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-246 (AEHF-3) Military comsat GTO Success[102]
41 November 18, 2013
401 AV-038 CCAFS SLC-41 MAVEN Mars orbiter Hyperbolic to
42 December 6, 2013
501 AV-042 VAFB SLC-3E USA-247 (NROL-39) NRO reconnaissance satellite LEO Success[104]
43 January 24, 2014
401 AV-043 CCAFS SLC-41 TDRS-L (TDRS-12) Data relay satellite GTO Success[105]
44 April 3, 2014
401 AV-044 VAFB SLC-3E USA-249 (DMSP-5D3 F19) Military weather satellite LEO Success[106] 50th RD-180 launch
45 April 10, 2014
541 AV-045 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-250 (NROL-67) NRO reconnaissance satellite GTO Success[107]
46 May 22, 2014
401 AV-046 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-252 (NROL-33) NRO reconnaissance satellite GTO Success[108]
47 August 2, 2014
401 AV-048 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-256 (GPS IIF-7) Navigation satellite MEO Success[109]
48 August 13, 2014
401 AV-047 VAFB SLC-3E WorldView-3 Earth imaging satellite LEO Success[110]
49 September 17, 2014
401 AV-049 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-257 (CLIO) Military comsat[111] GTO[111] Success[112] The Centaur upper stage fragmented on 31 August 2018[113]
50 October 29, 2014
401 AV-050 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-258 (GPS IIF-8) Navigation satellite MEO Success[114] 50th Atlas V launch
51 December 13, 2014
541 AV-051 VAFB SLC-3E USA-259 (NROL-35) NRO reconnaissance satellite Molniya Success[115] First use of the RL-10C engine on the Centaur stage
52 January 21, 2015
551 AV-052 CCAFS SLC-41 MUOS-3 Military comsat GTO Success[116]
53 March 13, 2015
421 AV-053 CCAFS SLC-41 MMS Magnetosphere research satellites HEO Success[117]
54 May 20, 2015
501 AV-054 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-261 (X-37B OTV-4/AFSPC-5) Military orbital test vehicle LEO Success[118]
55 July 15, 2015
401 AV-055 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-262 (GPS IIF-10) Navigation satellite MEO Success[119]
56 September 2, 2015
551 AV-056 CCAFS SLC-41 MUOS-4 Military comsat GTO Success[120]
57 October 2, 2015
421 AV-059 CCAFS SLC-41 Mexsat-2 Comsat GTO Success[121]
58 October 8, 2015
401 AV-058 VAFB SLC-3E USA-264 (NROL-55) NRO reconnaissance satellites LEO Success[122]
59 October 31, 2015
401 AV-060 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-265 (GPS IIF-11) Navigation satellite MEO Success[123]
60 December 6, 2015
401 AV-061 CCAFS SLC-41 Cygnus CRS OA-4 ISS logistics spacecraft LEO Success[124] First Atlas rocket used to directly support the ISS program
61 February 5, 2016
401 AV-057 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-266 (GPS IIF-12) Navigation satellite MEO Success[125]
62 March 23, 2016
401 AV-064 CCAFS SLC-41 Cygnus CRS OA-6 ISS logistics spacecraft LEO Success[126] First stage shut down early but did not affect mission outcome
63 June 24, 2016
551 AV-063 CCAFS SLC-41 MUOS-5 Military comsat GTO Success[127]
64 July 28, 2016
421 AV-065 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-267 (NROL-61) NRO reconnaissance satellite GTO Success[128]
65 September 8, 2016
411 AV-067 CCAFS SLC-41 OSIRIS-REx Asteroid sample return Heliocentric Success[129]
66 November 11, 2016
401 AV-062 VAFB SLC-3E WorldView-4 (GeoEye-2) + 7 NRO cubesats Earth Imaging, cubesats SSO Success[130] LMCLS launch
67 November 19, 2016
541 AV-069 CCAFS SLC-41 GOES-R (GOES-16) Meteorology GTO Success[131] 100th EELV launch
68 December 18, 2016
431 AV-071 CCAFS SLC-41 EchoStar 19 (Jupiter 2) Commercial comsat GTO Success[132] LMCLS launch
69 January 21, 2017
401 AV-066 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-273 (SBIRS GEO-3) Missile Warning satellite GTO Success[133]
70 March 1, 2017
401 AV-068 VAFB SLC-3E USA-274 (NROL-79) NRO Reconnaissance Satellite LEO Success[134]
71 April 18, 2017
401 AV-070 CCAFS SLC-41 Cygnus CRS OA-7 ISS logistics spacecraft LEO Success[135]
72 August 18, 2017
401 AV-074 CCAFS SLC-41 TDRS-M (TDRS-13) Data relay satellite GTO Success[136]
73 September 24, 2017
541 AV-072 VAFB SLC-3E USA-278 (NROL-42) NRO Reconnaissance Satellite Molniya Success[137]
74 October 15, 2017
421 AV-075 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-279 (NROL-52) NRO Reconnaissance satellite GTO Success[138]
75 January 20, 2018
411 AV-076 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-282 (SBIRS GEO-4) Missile Warning satellite GTO Success[139]
76 March 1, 2018
541 AV-077 CCAFS SLC-41 GOES-S (GOES-17) Meteorology GTO Success[140] Expended the 100th AJ-60 SRB
77 April 14, 2018
551 AV-079 CCAFS SLC-41 AFSPC-11 Military comsat GEO Success[141]
78 May 5, 2018
401 AV-078 VAFB SLC-3E InSight MarCO Mars lander; 2 CubeSats Hyperbolic
(Mars landing)
Success[142] First interplanetary mission from VAFB; first interplanetary CubeSats.
79 October 17, 2018,
551 AV-073 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-288 (AEHF-4) Military comsat GTO Success[143][144] 250th Centaur. The Centaur upper stage fragmented in orbit on 6 Apr 2019.[145][146]
80 August 8, 2019,
551 AV-083 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-292 (AEHF-5) Military comsat GTO Success[147]
81 December 20, 2019,
N22 AV-080 CCAFS SLC-41 Starliner Boeing OFT Uncrewed orbital test flight Suborbital (Atlas V)

LEO (Starliner)

Success First flight of a Dual-Engine Centaur on Atlas V. First orbital test flight of Starliner. Planned to visit ISS, but an anomaly with the Starliner vehicle left the spacecraft in too low an orbit to do so. The Atlas V rocket performed as expected and thus the mission is listed as successful here.[148]
82 February 10, 2020,
411 AV-087 CCAFS SLC-41 Solar Orbiter Solar heliophysics orbiter Heliocentric Success[149]
83 March 26, 2020,
551 AV-086 CCAFS SLC-41 AEHF-6 Military comsat GTO Success[150] First ever flight for the U.S. Space Force. 500th flight of the RL10 engine
84 May 17, 2020,
501 AV-081 CCAFS SLC-41 USA-299 (USSF-7 (X-37B OTV-6, Falcon-Sat-8)) X-37 military spaceplane; USAFA sat. LEO Success[151] Sixth flight of X-37B; FalconSat-8
85 July 30, 2020, 11:50 541 AV-088 CCAFS SLC-41 Mars 2020 Mars Rover Heliocentric Success[152] Launch of the Perseverance rover

For planned launches, see List of Atlas launches (2020–2029).

Notable missions

The first payload, the Hot Bird 6 communications satellite, was launched to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) on 21 August 2002 by an Atlas V 401.[citation needed]

On 12 August 2005, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Centaur upper stage of the rocket completed its burns over a 56-minute period and placed MRO into an interplanetary transfer orbit towards Mars[59]

On 19 January 2006, New Horizons was launched by a Lockheed Martin Atlas V 551 rocket. A third stage was added to increase the heliocentric (escape) speed. This was the first launch of the Atlas V 551 configuration with five solid rocket boosters, and the first Atlas V with a third stage.[citation needed]

On 6 December 2015, Atlas V lifted its heaviest payload to date into orbit – a 16,517-pound (7,492 kg) Cygnus resupply craft.[153]

On 8 September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission was launched on an Atlas V 411 rocket. It was scheduled to arrive at the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return with a sample ranging from 60 grams to 2 kilograms in 2023.[citation needed]

The first four Boeing X-37B spaceplane missions were successfully launched with the Atlas V. The X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), is a reusable robotic spacecraft operated by USAF that can autonomously conduct landings from orbit to a runway.[154] The first four X-37B flights were launched on Atlas V's from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with subsequent landings taking place on the Space Shuttle 15,000-foot (4,600 m) runway located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.[citation needed]

On 20 December 2019, the first Starliner crew capsule was launched in Boe-OFT uncrewed test flight. The Atlas V carrier rocket performed flawlessly but an anomaly with the spacecraft left it in a wrong orbit. The orbit was too low to reach the flight's destination of ISS, and the mission was subsequently cut short.

Mission success record

In its 83 launches (as of August 2020), starting with its first launch in August 2002, Atlas V has achieved a 100% mission success rate and a 97.6% vehicle success rate.[155] This is in contrast to the industry success rate of 90%–95%.[156] However, there have been two anomalous flights that – while still successful in their mission – prompted a grounding of the Atlas fleet while investigations determined the root cause of their problems.

The first anomalous event in the use of the Atlas V launch system occurred on June 15, 2007, when the engine in the Centaur upper stage of an Atlas V shut down early, leaving its payload – a pair of NRO L-30 ocean surveillance satellites – in a lower than intended orbit. The cause of the anomaly was traced to a leaky valve, which allowed fuel to leak during the coast between the first and second burns. The resulting lack of fuel caused the second burn to terminate 4 seconds early.[157] Replacing the valve led to a delay in the next Atlas V launch.[67] However, the customer (the National Reconnaissance Office) categorized the mission as a success.[158][159]

A flight on March 23, 2016, suffered an underperformance anomaly on the first-stage burn and shut down 5 seconds early. The Centaur proceeded to boost the Orbital Cygnus payload, the heaviest on an Atlas to date, into the intended orbit by using its fuel reserves to make up for the shortfall from the first stage. This longer burn cut short a later Centaur disposal burn.[160] An investigation of the incident revealed that this anomaly was due to a fault in the main engine mixture-ratio supply valve, which restricted the flow of fuel to the engine. The investigation and subsequent examination of the valves on upcoming missions led to a delay of the next several launches.[161]

Replacement with Vulcan

In 2014, geopolitical and US political considerations led to an effort to replace the Russian-supplied RD-180 engine used on the first-stage booster of the Atlas V. Formal study contracts were issued in June 2014 to a number of US rocket-engine suppliers.[162] The results of those studies have led a decision by ULA to develop the new Vulcan launch vehicle to replace the existing Atlas V and Delta IV.[163]

In September 2014, ULA announced a partnership with Blue Origin to develop the BE-4 LOX/methane engine to replace the RD-180 on a new first-stage booster. As the Atlas V core is designed around RP-1 fuel and cannot be retrofitted to use a methane-fueled engine, a new first stage is being developed. This booster will have the same first-stage tankage diameter as the Delta IV and will be powered by two 2,400 kN (550,000 lbf) thrust BE-4 engines.[162][164][165] The engine was already in its third year of development by Blue Origin, and ULA expected the new stage and engine to start flying no earlier than 2019.

Vulcan will initially use the same Centaur upper stage as on Atlas V, later to be upgraded to ACES.[164] It will also use a variable number of optional solid rocket boosters, called the GEM 63XL, derived from the new solid boosters planned for Atlas V.[29]

As of 2017, the Aerojet AR1 rocket engine was under development as a backup plan for Vulcan.[166]

As of September 2020, no replacement was expected before mid-2021.[167]

Photo gallery

See also


  1. ^ "V" is the roman numeral 5 and is pronounced as such.


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External links

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