Atlas SLV-3 s/n 7004 / Burner-2 (No Agena) - 1968-08-16
AKA: SLV-3. Status: Retired 1967. First Launch: 1966-06-01. Last Launch: 1967-04-20. Number: 4 . Payload: 800 kg (1,760 lb). Thrust: 1,650.00 kN (370,930 lbf). Gross mass: 120,000 kg (260,000 lb). Height: 21.00 m (68.00 ft). Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). Apogee: 300 km (180 mi).
LEO Payload: 800 kg (1,760 lb) to a 300 km orbit at 28.00 degrees.
The first and only Atlas/Augmented Target Docking Adapter (ATDA) Gemini Agena (#5304) was launched from the Eastern Test Range as part of the Gemini 9 mission. The ATDA was a back-up for the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle (GATV) and similar to it except that it lacked the capability to maneuver in space. The ATDA achieved a near-circular orbit (apogee 161.5, perigee 158.5 nautical miles). One hour and 40 minutes later, the scheduled launch of Gemini IX-A was postponed by a ground equipment failure which prevented the transfer of updating information from Cape Kennedy mission control center to the spacecraft computer. The mission was recycled for launch on June 3, following a prepared 48-hour recycle plan. Anomalous telemetry indicated some sort of problem with the target, but it was not until Gemini IX rendezvoused with it in orbit that it was seen that fairing separation had failed.
The first SV-5D Precision Recovery Including Maneuvering Entry (PRIME) maneuverable reentry vehicle was launched from Vandenberg by the first Series 7000 Atlas standard launch vehicle (SLV-3, Vehicle #7001). Managed by Space Systems Division, PRIME was designed to explore and advance the development of possible future manned and unmanned lifting body vehicles that would have the capability of operating like a spacecraft in orbit and of flying and maneuvering like an aircraft in the sensible atmosphere. Research was to be applicable to later Space Transportation System (STS) technology. The first test of the X-23A SV-5D lifting body re-entry shape. It was a zero cross-range suborbital flight, with recovery 6935 km downrange. The ballute deployed at 30.440 m, followed by the main parachute at 13,700 m, and the vehicle was descending within 275 m of the target point. Nevertheless the air-snatch was unsuccessful, and the vehicle sank. However 90% of the planned telemetry was successfully transmitted by radio.
The second SV-5D Precision Recovery Including Maneuvering Reentry (PRIME) lifting body was successfully launched from Vandenberg by an Atlas booster. Although the SV-5D was not recovered, its on-board sensors provided excellent data on the effects of reentry. This was also the first spacecraft to perform cross-range maneuvers during reentry. The X-23A SV-5D lifting body vehicle demonstrated a 1055 km cross-range manoeuvre, but again air snatch failed.
The third and last SV-5D Precision Recovery Including Maneuvering Entry (PRIME) flight vehicle, essentially a small maneuverahle reentry spacecraft, successfully performed cross-range maneuvers after being launched from Vandenberg on an Atlas booster. The series of three flights was so successful in demonstrating that a maneuverable spacecraft could survive reentry that the planned fourth flight test was cancelled. The full design 1145 km cross range was demonstrated, and the X-23A SV-5D lifting body vehicle was successfully snatched at 3700 m altitude, 8 km from the target point. With this success the rest of the project was cancelled, and the two remaining unflown X-22A's were sent to the USAF Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.