Encyclopedia Astronautica
Timberwind Centaur


American nuclear-powered orbital launch vehicle.

LEO Payload: 12,272 kg (27,055 lb) to a 80 km orbit. Payload: 6,363 kg (14,028 lb) to a 19,000 km orbit in 1985 dollars. Flyaway Unit Cost $: 100.000 million.

Stage Data - Timberwind Centaur

  • 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 Timberwind 45. Gross Mass: 28,000 kg (61,000 lb). Empty Mass: 7,500 kg (16,500 lb). Thrust (vac): 441.000 kN (99,140 lbf). Isp: 1,000 sec. Burn time: 449 sec. Isp(sl): 890 sec. Diameter: 4.25 m (13.94 ft). Span: 4.25 m (13.94 ft). Length: 23.87 m (78.31 ft). Propellants: Nuclear/LH2. No Engines: 1. Engine: Timberwind 45. Status: Development 1992.

Status: Development ended 1992.
Gross mass: 223,628 kg (493,015 lb).
Payload: 12,272 kg (27,055 lb).
Height: 29.00 m (95.00 ft).
Diameter: 4.25 m (13.94 ft).
Thrust: 3,828.63 kN (860,710 lbf).
Apogee: 80 km (49 mi).

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Engines
  • RD-180 Glushko Lox/Kerosene rocket engine. 4152 kN. Atlas III, Atlas V stage 1. In production. Isp=337s. First flight 2000. Two-thrust-chamber derivative of the four-chamber RD-170 used on Zenit. More...
  • Timberwind 45 DoE nuclear/lh2 rocket engine. 441.3 kN. Development ended 1992. Isp=1000s. Used on Timberwind Centaur launch vehicle. More...

See also
  • Timberwind DARPA project. Nuclear fission engine using pebble bed reactor with spherical fuel elements. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • DARPA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (formerly ARPA), USA. More...

Associated Stages
  • Atlas IIIA Lox/Kerosene propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 195,628/13,725 kg. Thrust 4,148.72 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 337 seconds. The American Atlas booster and sustainer engine arrangement was replaced by derivatives of Glushko engines developed for the Ukrainian Zenit launch vehicle. Not capable of single stage to single stage to orbit capability (an Internet spaceflight urban myth). More...
  • Timberwind 45 Nuclear/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 28,000/7,500 kg. Thrust 441.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 1000 seconds. More...

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