SP-4212
On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet. 1958-1978

 
 

[465-469] Appendix E

Launch Vehicles for Mars Missions
 
 

 
 
 

Atlas-Agena launch vehicles-used by NASA during the 1960s to launch a variety of payloads to Earth orbit, the moon, and the near planets-sent Mariner spacecraft (200-260 kilograms) on their way to Venus or Mars. The Agena upper stage, developed by Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. for the Air Force, was capable of restarting its engines, thus permitting the spacecraft to be positioned more precisely. Paired with the Atlas booster, Agena B was used in 1962 for the first two Mariner flights (the Atlas stage malfunctioned during the Mariner 1 launch). Atlas-Agena D, with an improved upper stage that could accept a greater variety of payloads, launched the next three Mariners in 1964 and 1967.

 
Advanced mission planners of the early 1960s had based their planetary exploration schedules on the early availability of the high-energy Centaur upper stage. Centaur, a liquid-hydrogen-fueled stage developed for NASA by General Dynamics/Convair, did not go into service until 1966, however. It was 1969 before Atlas-Centaur sent two 400-kilogram Mariners flying by Mars. In May 1971, a Centaur failure led to the destruction of the next Mariner spacecraft. A second attempt weeks later saw Mariner 9 (990 kilograms) off on its journey to Mars. In November 1973, Atlas-Centaur boosted Mariner 10 (500 kilograms) to an interplanetary (Venus and Mercury) trajectory.
 
Centaur also had a role in the Viking Mars landing project. Mated with a Titan IIIE two-stage vehicle, the improved Centaur could boost the 3500-kilogram, two-part Viking spacecraft to the Red Planet. NASA had used another model of the Air Force Titan, the Titan II, for the manned Gemini program, 1965-1966. The Titan IIIE, a modified version of the Titan IIID used by the Air Force since 1971 as a satellite launcher and made by Martin Marietta Corporation, was a powerful, versatile vehicle. NASA's first test launch of Titan IIIE-Centaur in February 1974 ended in failure, however, because of the malfunction of a Centaur component. Helios 1, a German satellite, was successfully launched by NASA with Titan-Centaur the following December. The bulbous launch vehicle with its two powerful strap-on booster rockets performed equally well in 1975 for Viking.
 
 
Atlas-Agena B Characteristics

.

Characteristics

1st Stage, Atlas
2d Stage,
Agena B

Total With Adapter

.

Height (m)

21.9

7.2

30.6

Diameter (m)

3

1.5

-

Launch weight (kg)

117 780

7022

124 802

Propulsion system:

Powerplant

MA-3 propulsion system

 

Bell
XLR-81-Ba-9
(model 8081; upgraded to 8096)

-

Thrust (Kilonewtons)

1600

71.2

1670

Propellant a

LOX/RP-1

IRFNA/UDMH

-

Payload capacity (kg)

-

-

2627 to Earth Orbit
340 to escape trajectory
204 to Mars or Venus

Origin

Uprated Atlas-Agena A

Contractor

- Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp (prime).
- North American Aviation, Inc. (engines)
- Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. (prime)
- Bell Aerospace (engine)
 
 

-

Program Use

Mariner, Ranger, and OGO

Remarks

Capable of engine restart
 
a LOX/RP-1 = liquid oxygen and modified kerosene.
IRFNA/UDMH = inhibited red-fuming nitric acid and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine.
 
 

 
 
Atlas-Agena D Characteristics

.

Characteristics

1st Stage,
Atlas
2d Stage,
Agena B

Total With Adapter

.

Height (m)

21.9
23.2 (SLV-3C)
7.2
 
30.6
32.1 (w/SLV-3C)

Diameter (m)

3

1.5

-

Launch weight (kg)

117 780
128 879 (SLV-3C)
7248
 
125 028
136 127 (w/SLV-3C)

Propulsion system:

Powerplant

MA-5 propulsion system

 

Bell
XLR-81-Ba-9
(model 8247; upgraded to 8533)

-

Thrust (Kilonewtons)

1600
1750 (SLV-3C)
71.2
 
1670
1820 (w/SLV-3C)

Propellant a

LOX/RP-1

N2O4/UDMH

Payload capacity (kg)

-

-

2718 to Earth Orbit
385 to escape trajectory
250 to Mars or Venus

Origin

Uprated Atlas-Agena B

Contractors

- Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp (prime).
- North American Aviation, Inc. (engines)
- Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. (prime)
- Bell Aerospace (engine)
 
 

-

Program Use

Mariner, OAO, Lunar Orbiter, and ATS

Remarks

The Agena D stage could accept a greater variety of payloads than could the Agena B model.

 
a LOX/RP-1 = liquid oxygen and modified kerosene.
N2O4/UDMH = nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine.
 
 

 
 
Atlas-Centaur Characteristics

.

Characteristics
1st Stage,
Atlas SLV-3C/
Atlas SLV-3D
2d Stage,
Centaur D-1A

Total

.

Height (m)

23.2
 
13
14.6 w/payload fairing
34
 

Diameter (m)

3.05

3.05

-

Launch weight (kg)

128 879

17 145

146 024

Propulsion system:

Powerplant

MA-5 propulsion system
Pratt & Whitney (2)
RL-10

-

Thrust (Kilonewtons)

1700/1900

133.4

1890/2050

Propellant a

LOX/RP-1

LOX/LH2

-

Payload capacity (kg)

-

-

3857/4536 to Earth Orbit
1225/1882 to synchronous orbit
815/907 to Mars or Venus

Origin

Air Force ICBM

General Dynamics studies for a high-energy second stage; development supported by NASA

Contractors

- General Dynamics/Convair (formerly Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp.) (prime).
- North American Aviation, Inc. (engines)

- General Dynamics/Convair

 

 

 

-

Program Use

Surveyor, ATS, OAO, Mariner, Intelsat, Pioneer.

Remarks

Centaur, the first U.S. launch vehicle to use liquid hydrogen as a propellant, was originally scheduled for operations in the early 1960s for Mars and Venus probes. Because of delays in the vehicle's development, however, it was not ready until 1966. One of the serious problems with the stage's development was hydrogen loss; heat transfer between the oxygen and hydrogen fuel tanks caused the liquid hydrogen to evaporate.

 
a LOX/RP-1 = liquid oxygen and modified kerosene.
LOX/LH2 = Liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
 
 

 
 

Titan IIIE- Centaur Characteristics

.

Characteristics
Stage 0
Solid Fueled Rocket
Motors (2)
1st Stage
Titan
2d Stage
Titan
3d Stage,
Centaur
D-1T
Centaur
Standard
Shroud

Total

.

Height (m)

25.9

22.2

7.1

9.7

(17.7)

48.8

Diameter (m)

3.05

3.05

3.05

3.05

4.3

-

Launch weight (kg)

226 800

123 830

33 112

17 700

3092

631 334

Propulsion system:

Powerplant

United Technology 1205

Aerojet YLR87-AJ-11

Aerojet YLR91-AJ-11

Pratt & Whitney (2) RL-10A-3-3

-

-

Thrust (Kilonewtons)

10 680 (combined)

2310

449.2

133.4

-

13 550

Burn time (sec)

110

150

208

450

-

918

Propellant a
powdered aluminium/ammonium perchlorate
N2H4-UDMH/N2O4
 
 
N2H4-UDMH/N2O4
 
 
LH2/LOX
 
 
-
-

Payload capacity (kg)

-

-

-

-

-

15 000 to Earth orbit
3 000 to synchronous orbit
3 400 to Mars

Origin

Air Force Titan IIID modified to NASA requirements

NASA design

-

-

Contractors

Chemical Systems Div., United Technologies
Martin Marietta Corp.
 

 

General Dynamics/Convair
 

-

-

Program Manager

R. A. Mattson, NASA Hq.

Project Manager

Andrew J. Stofan, Lewis Research Center

Program Use

Viking, Voyager

Remarks

In this configuration, the Centaur upper stage replaced the standard Titan third stage, called the transtage; Centaur was capable of restarting its two engines, a desirable characteristic for planetary missions. During Centaur's coast phase, 14 small hydrogen peroxide thrusters controlled attitude. When the two five-segment solid-fueled rocket motors, together known as "stage 0", were jettisoned, the Titan first stage ignited. These strap-on motors provided more than four times the thrust of the Atlas booster at liftoff.

a N2H4-UDMH/N2O4 = hydrazine-unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.
LH2/LOX = liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
 

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