Encyclopedia Astronautica
Atlas IIIA

Credit: Lockheed Martin
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).

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.

Cost $ : 50.000 million.

Status: Retired 2005.
Gross mass: 195,628 kg (431,285 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 13,725 kg (30,258 lb).
Height: 29.00 m (95.00 ft).
Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft).
Span: 3.05 m (10.00 ft).
Thrust: 4,148.72 kN (932,670 lbf).
Specific impulse: 337 s.
Specific impulse sea level: 311 s.
Burn time: 132 s.
Number: 7 .

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...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Atlas IIIA American orbital launch vehicle. The Atlas IIIA was a development of the Atlas using Russian engines in place of the Rocketdyne MA-5 booster/sustainer group used on all previous models. It was the centerpiece of Lockheed Martin's strategy to remain a leader in the commercial launch services industry. However customers never materialized, and it was used for only two launches in 2002-2004 before being replaced by the Atlas V. More...
  • Atlas IIIB 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. More...

Associated Propellants
  • Lox/Kerosene Liquid oxygen was the earliest, cheapest, safest, and eventually the preferred oxidiser for large space launchers. Its main drawback is that it is moderately cryogenic, and therefore not suitable for military uses where storage of the fuelled missile and quick launch are required. In January 1953 Rocketdyne commenced the REAP program to develop a number of improvements to the engines being developed for the Navaho and Atlas missiles. Among these was development of a special grade of kerosene suitable for rocket engines. Prior to that any number of rocket propellants derived from petroleum had been used. Goddard had begun with gasoline, and there were experimental engines powered by kerosene, diesel oil, paint thinner, or jet fuel kerosene JP-4 or JP-5. The wide variance in physical properties among fuels of the same class led to the identification of narrow-range petroleum fractions, embodied in 1954 in the standard US kerosene rocket fuel RP-1, covered by Military Specification MIL-R-25576. In Russia, similar specifications were developed for kerosene under the specifications T-1 and RG-1. The Russians also developed a compound of unknown formulation in the 1980's known as 'Sintin', or synthetic kerosene. More...

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