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Atlas Able
Part of Atlas Family
Atlas Able
Atlas Able
Atlas Able - 1959-11-26
American orbital launch vehicle. Atlas with upper stage based on Vanguard second stage.

Status: Retired 1960. First Launch: 1959-11-26. Last Launch: 1960-12-15. Number: 3 . Payload: 170 kg (370 lb). Thrust: 1,587.20 kN (356,817 lbf). Gross mass: 120,051 kg (264,667 lb). Height: 35.00 m (114.00 ft). Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft).

Six additional Able stages were delivered in parallel with the first production contract for the Thor-Able, and these were modified for use on Atlas, but this was not a good match, and only five were flown. There were problems with the main missile structure while passing through the regime of maximum dynamic pressure, and damage to the second stage during separation.

Payload: 170 kg (370 lb) to a translunar trajectory. Flyaway Unit Cost 1985$: 18.810 million.

Stage Data - Atlas Able

  • Stage 0. 1 x Atlas MA-2. Gross Mass: 3,050 kg (6,720 lb). Empty Mass: 3,050 kg (6,720 lb). Thrust (vac): 1,517.422 kN (341,130 lbf). Isp: 282 sec. Burn time: 135 sec. Isp(sl): 248 sec. Diameter: 4.90 m (16.00 ft). Span: 4.90 m (16.00 ft). Length: 0.0000 m ( ft). Propellants: Lox/Kerosene. No Engines: 2. Engine: XLR-89-5. Status: Out of Production.
  • Stage 1. 1 x Atlas Able. Gross Mass: 114,495 kg (252,418 lb). Empty Mass: 4,200 kg (9,200 lb). Thrust (vac): 363.218 kN (81,655 lbf). Isp: 309 sec. Burn time: 275 sec. Isp(sl): 215 sec. Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). Span: 4.90 m (16.00 ft). Length: 20.64 m (67.71 ft). Propellants: Lox/Kerosene. No Engines: 1. Engine: XLR-105-5. Status: Out of Production.
  • Stage 2. 1 x Able. Gross Mass: 2,268 kg (5,000 lb). Empty Mass: 816 kg (1,798 lb). Thrust (vac): 34.300 kN (7,711 lbf). Isp: 270 sec. Burn time: 115 sec. Isp(sl): 240 sec. Diameter: 0.84 m (2.75 ft). Span: 0.84 m (2.75 ft). Length: 6.57 m (21.55 ft). Propellants: Nitric acid/UDMH. No Engines: 1. Engine: AJ10-101. Status: Out of Production.
  • Stage 3. 1 x Altair 1. Gross Mass: 238 kg (524 lb). Empty Mass: 30 kg (66 lb). Thrust (vac): 12.450 kN (2,799 lbf). Isp: 256 sec. Burn time: 38 sec. Isp(sl): 233 sec. Diameter: 0.46 m (1.50 ft). Span: 0.46 m (1.50 ft). Length: 1.83 m (6.00 ft). Propellants: Solid. No Engines: 1. Engine: X-248. Status: Out of Production.



Family: orbital launch vehicle. Country: USA. Engines: XLR105-5, XLR89-5, AJ10-101. Spacecraft: Pioneer P 3. Projects: Pioneer series. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral, Cape Canaveral LC14, Cape Canaveral LC12, Cape Canaveral LC13. Stages: Able, Altair 1, Atlas MA-2, Atlas D stage. Agency: Convair.
Photo Gallery

Atlas D AbleAtlas D Able
Credit: © Thomas Kladiva - Thomas Kladiva



1956 May 1 - . LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able.
  • Rand Corporation studies a lunar instrument carrier, based on use of an Atlas booster. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest. Rand Corporation issued a series of reports on the feasibility of a lunar instrument carrier, based on use of an Atlas booster. (Early BMD-ARDC General Space Chronology, II Feb 59, prep by AFBMD Hist Ofc.).

1956 May - . LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able.
  • The Rand Corporation reported on the feasibility of a lunar instrument carrier using the Atlas as a booster vehicle. - . Spacecraft: Explorer.

1956 May 1 - . LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able.
  • Rand Corporation issued a series of reports on the feasibility of a lunar instrument carrier, based on use of an Atlas booster. - . Spacecraft: Explorer.

1956 May 28 - . LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able.
  • RAND lunar instrument carrier based on the Atlas booster - . Nation: USA.

    The RAND Corporation issued the first of a series of reports on the feasibility of a lunar instrument carrier, based on the use of an Atlas booster. A braking rocket would decelerate the vehicle before lunar landing, and a penetration spike on the forward point of the instrument package would help to absorb the 500 feet per second impact velocity. Instruments would then transmit information on the lunar surface to earth.


1959 November 26 - . 07:26 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC14. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able. FAILURE: Payload shroud failed after 45 sec, broke away prematurely.. Failed Stage: S.
  • Pioneer (P 3) - . Payload: Pioneer P 3 / Able IVB. Mass: 168 kg (370 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Program: Pioneer. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Pioneer P 3. Decay Date: 1959-11-26 . Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

    An intended lunar probe launched from the Atlantic Missile Range by an Atlas-Able booster disintegrated about 45 seconds later when the protective sheath covering the payload detached prematurely. The probe was sponsored by NASA, developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and launched by the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division.


1960 February 15 - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC13. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able. FAILURE: Vehicle exploded in static firing.. Failed Stage: 1.
  • Pioneer (P 31) - . Payload: Pioneer P 31. Nation: USA. Program: Pioneer. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Pioneer P 3. Decay Date: 1960-02-15 . COSPAR: F600215A.

1960 September 25 - . 15:13 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC12. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able. FAILURE: Second stage exploded.. Failed Stage: U.
  • Pioneer (P 30) - . Payload: Pioneer P 30 / Able VA. Mass: 175 kg (385 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Program: Pioneer. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Pioneer P 3. Decay Date: 1960-09-25 . Apogee: 1,290 km (800 mi). An attempt to launch a Pioneer satellite into lunar orbit failed when one of the upper stages of the Atlas- Able rocket malfunctioned..

1960 December 15 - . 09:10 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC12. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Able. FAILURE: Atlas exploded 70 seconds after liftoff.. Failed Stage: 1.
  • Pioneer (P 31) - . Payload: Pioneer P 31 / Able VB. Mass: 175 kg (385 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Program: Pioneer. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Pioneer P 3. Decay Date: 1960-12-15 . Apogee: 13 km (8 mi). The final launch in the Pioneer lunar probe program was unsuccessful; the Atlas-Able booster rocket went out of control and exploded at an altitude of 12,200 m off Cape Canaveral..


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