The ATLAS rocket was American's first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It was first successfully launched in December, 1955. Originally a weapons delivery system, the Atlas D was selected by NASA to be the rocket that sent American astronauts into Earth orbit. It was used on all orbital Mercury missions from John Glenn's flight, Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) onward. Scott Carpenter (MA-7), Walter Schirra (MA-8) and Gordon Cooper (MA-9) all few atop this unique booster. After the Mercury program, NASA continued to use the Atlas to launch spacecraft such as the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle, Mariner and Pioneer space probes.
This ATLAS-F rocket, slightly more powerful than the Series-D, is nearly identical in structure. It has a stainless steel skin that is extremely thin and lightweight, but fragile. It had to stay pressurized or it collapsed under its own weight. It was also a "stage-and-a-half" rocket. In order to save weight and maintain power when needed, the two outer engines and a portion of the aft section would separate from the rocket . This shed unneeded weight but left the tanks intact and the center engine still burning.
Length: 71.2ft (21.7m) without payload
Diameter: 10ft (3m)
Width: 16ft (4.9m)
Weight: 267, 136lbs (121,171 kg)
Thrust: 387,000lbs (1,721,463N)
· 165,000lbs (733,957N)
per booster (x2)
· 57,000lbs (253,549N) sustainer
Propellant: Liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene
· Convair Corporation/General Dynamics (fuselage)
· Rocketdyne Division, North American Aviation, Inc. (propulsion)