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Atlas 3B
Part of Atlas Family
Atlas IIIA / Atlas I
Atlas IIIA / Atlas I
Credit: © Mark Wade
American orbital launch vehicle. This was the first version of the Atlas to fly using Russian RD-180 engines; and the last version to fly using the original balloon-tank concept for the first stage. It differed from the Atlas IIIA in use of a stretched, two-engine upper stage, and had a brief three-year operational career in 2002-2005 before being superseded by the Atlas V.

AKA: Atlas IIARC;Atlas IIIB;Atlas IIRC. Status: Retired 2005. First Launch: 2002-02-21. Last Launch: 2005-02-03. Number: 4 . Payload: 10,718 kg (23,629 lb). Thrust: 2,600.00 kN (584,500 lbf). Gross mass: 218,588 kg (481,904 lb). Height: 52.80 m (173.20 ft). Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). Apogee: 40,000 km (24,000 mi).

The single-stage Atlas IIIB booster was the same as that used for the Atlas IIIA. The Lockheed-Martin manufactured Centaur upper stage was powered by two Pratt & Whitney RL10A-4-2 turbopump-fed engines burning liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The changes to Centaur for the Atlas IIIB included a stretched tank (1.68 m) and the addition of the second engine. Guidance, tank pressurization, and propellant usage controls for both Atlas and Centaur phases were provided by the inertial navigation unit (INU) located on the forward equipment module.

In a typical Atlas IIIB launch, the vehicle's two RD-180 thrust chambers were ignited shortly before liftoff. Pre-programmed engine thrust settings were used during booster ascent to minimize vehicle loads by throttling back during peak transonic loads in the high dynamic pressure region, while otherwise maximizing vehicle performance. Just over two minutes into flight, as the vehicle reached an axial acceleration of 4 g's, the engines began to throttle back, eventually initiating a constant throttle rate to sustain acceleration at 5.5 g's. Booster engine cutoff occurred approximately three minutes into flight and was followed by separation of Centaur from Atlas.

The first Centaur burn lasted about five minutes, after which the Centaur and its payload coasted in a parking orbit. During the first burn, approximately eight seconds after ignition, the payload fairing was jettisoned. The second Centaur ignition occurred 27 minutes into the flight, continued for about three minutes, and was followed several minutes later by the separation of the spacecraft from Centaur. Major suppliers included: NPO Energomash / Pratt & Whitney - Atlas RD-180 engines; Pratt & Whitney - Centaur engines; Honeywell - Inertial Navigation Unit; BF Goodrich - Digital acquisition system; SAAB - Payload Separation Systems.

LEO Payload: 10,718 kg (23,629 lb). Payload: 4,500 kg (9,900 lb) to a GTO. Launch Price $: 105.000 million in 2000 dollars.

Stage Data - Atlas IIIB

  • Stage 1. 1 x Atlas IIIA. Gross Mass: 195,628 kg (431,285 lb). Empty Mass: 13,725 kg (30,258 lb). Thrust (vac): 4,148.722 kN (932,670 lbf). Isp: 337 sec. Burn time: 132 sec. Isp(sl): 311 sec. Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). Span: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). Length: 29.00 m (95.00 ft). Propellants: Lox/Kerosene. No Engines: 1. Engine: RD-180. Status: In production. Atlas booster and sustainer engine arrangement replaced by Glushko engines developed for Zenit. Not capable of single stage to single stage to orbit capability (an Internet spaceflight urban myth). The single-stage Atlas IIIA booster uses a high-performance RD-180 propulsion system produced by a U.S./Russian joint venture (RD AMROSS) comprised of Pratt & Whitney (U.S.) and NPO Energomash (Russia). The RD-180 burns liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellant and develops a lift-off (sea-level) thrust of 2.6 MN. The RD-180 throttles to various levels during atmospheric ascent to effectively manage the air-loads experienced by the vehicle enabling minimum Atlas vehicle and launch site infrastructure changes. Additionally, throttling results in satellite experienced flight environments that are nearly identical to Atlas IIAS.
  • Stage 2. 1 x Centaur IIIB. Gross Mass: 22,960 kg (50,610 lb). Empty Mass: 2,130 kg (4,690 lb). Thrust (vac): 198.319 kN (44,584 lbf). Isp: 451 sec. Burn time: 460 sec. Isp(sl): 0.0000 sec. Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). Span: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). Length: 11.68 m (38.32 ft). Propellants: Lox/LH2. No Engines: 2. Engine: RL-10A-4-2. Status: In production. Dual-engine Centaur for Atlas IIIB. The Lockheed Martin manufactured Centaur IIIB upper stage is powered by two Pratt & Whitney RL10A-4-2 turbopump-fed engines burning liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The changes to Centaur for Atlas IIIB are a stretched tank (1.68 m) and the addition of the second engine. Guidance, tank pressurization, and propellant usage controls for both Atlas and Centaur phases are provided by the inertial navigation unit (INU) located on the forward equipment module. The first Centaur burn lasts about five minutes, after which the Centaur and its payload coast in a parking orbit. During the first burn, approximately eight seconds after ignition, the payload fairing is jettisoned. The second Centaur ignition occurs 27 minutes into the flight, continues for about three minutes, and is followed several minutes later by the separation of the spacecraft from Centaur.



Family: orbital launch vehicle. Country: USA. Engines: RD-180, RL-10A-4-2. Spacecraft: Intruder, HS 601, AS 2100, LM 700. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral LC36B. Stages: Atlas IIIA, Centaur IIIB. Agency: Martin.

2002 February 21 - . 12:43 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC36B. Launch Pad: SLC36B. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas 3B.
  • Echostar 7 - . Payload: A2100AX. Mass: 690 kg (1,520 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: PanAmSat. Manufacturer: Lockheed, Motorola. Program: Echostar. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: AS 2100. USAF Sat Cat: 27378 . COSPAR: 2002-006A. Apogee: 35,794 km (22,241 mi). Perigee: 35,779 km (22,231 mi). Inclination: 0.1000 deg. Period: 1,436.10 min.

    Direct Broasdcasting satellite. The first launch of the Atlas 3B, with the Common Centaur stretched two-engine upper stage. Launch delayed from December 19, 2001 and January 22. The Echostar 7 communications satellite was placed into geostationary transfer orbit. The first burn of the Centaur put the stack into a 185 x 193 km x 28.1 deg parking orbit. At 1305 UTC the Centaur burned again to achieve the final 245 x 57060 km x 22.6 deg transfer orbit and separated from Echostar. As of 2007 Mar 11 located at 118.92W drifting at 0.006W degrees per day.


2003 April 12 - . 00:47 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC36B. Launch Pad: SLC36B. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas 3B.
  • AsiaSat 4 - . Payload: HS 601HP / AsiaSat 1R. Mass: 4,042 kg (8,911 lb). Nation: China. Agency: AsiaSat. Manufacturer: El Segundo. Program: Asiasat. Class: Communications. Type: Civilian communications satellite. Spacecraft: HS 601. USAF Sat Cat: 27718 . COSPAR: 2003-014A. Apogee: 35,805 km (22,248 mi). Perigee: 35,772 km (22,227 mi). Inclination: 0.0000 deg. Period: 1,436.20 min.

    Delayed from May 28, 2002, and January 13, February 5, and April 11, 2003. AsiaSat 4 was designed to provide broadcast, telecommunications and broadband multimedia services to the Asia Pacific region, and direct-to-home broadcast servic-es to Hong Kong, from its orbital position of 122 deg East longitude.The satellite generated up to 9,600 watts using two sun-tracking four-panel solar wings covered with triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells. AsiaSat 4 was to operate in C-band and Ku-band. The satellite carried 28 active transponders with six spares in C-band, powered by 55-watt traveling-wave tube amplifiers (TWTAs), and 20 active transponders with four spares in Ku-band, powered by 140-watt TWTAs. The C-band payload was designed to offer pan-Asian coverage, similar to AsiaSat 3S, also a 601HP model. The Ku-band payload provided high power, and spot beams for selected areas in either the Fixed Satellite Service frequency band or in the Broadcast Satellite Service frequency band. As of 2007 Mar 10 located at 122.23E drifting at 0.011W degrees per day.


2003 December 18 - . 02:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC36B. Launch Pad: SLC36B. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas 3B.
  • USA 174 - . Payload: UFO F/O F11. Mass: 3,041 kg (6,704 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Program: UHF. Class: Communications. Type: Military communications satellite. Spacecraft: HS 601. USAF Sat Cat: 28117 . COSPAR: 2003-057A. Apogee: 35,798 km (22,243 mi). Perigee: 35,781 km (22,233 mi). Inclination: 4.2000 deg. Period: 1,436.20 min. The last UHF Follow-On communications satellite for the US Navy. The satellite provided fleet communications from geostationary orbit..

2005 February 3 - . 07:41 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC36B. Launch Pad: SLC36B. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas 3B.
  • USA 181 - . Payload: Intruder 7. Nation: USA. Agency: ILS. Class: Surveillance. Type: Naval signals intelligence satellite. Spacecraft: Intruder. USAF Sat Cat: 28537 . COSPAR: 2005-004A. Apogee: 1,209 km (751 mi). Perigee: 1,011 km (628 mi). Inclination: 63.4000 deg. Period: 107.40 min.

    Last launch of an Atlas model using the original, innovative, balloon propellant tanks conceived in 1947. Third launch of new generation paired satellites used for tracking, characterisation, and intelligence on naval vessels and civilian shipping worldwide.

  • USA 181 companion - . Payload: Intruder 7. Nation: USA. Agency: ILS. Class: Surveillance. Type: Naval signals intelligence satellite. Spacecraft: Intruder. USAF Sat Cat: 28541 . COSPAR: 2005-004C. Apogee: 1,209 km (751 mi). Perigee: 1,011 km (628 mi). Inclination: 63.4000 deg. Period: 107.40 min.


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