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Atlas III
Atlas III Centaur.jpg
The maiden flight of the Atlas III
FunctionMedium expendable launch vehicle
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
Country of originUnited States
Height52.8 m (173 ft)
Diameter3.05 m (10.0 ft)
Mass214,338 kg (472,534 lb)
Payload to Low Earth orbit
MassIIIA: 8,640 kg (19,050 lb)
IIIB: 10,218 kg (22,527 lb)
Payload to Geostationary transfer orbit
MassIIIA: 4,055 kg (8,940 lb)
IIIB: 4,500 kg (9,900 lb)
Associated rockets
Launch history
Launch sitesSLC-36B, CCAFS
Total launches6
(IIIA: 2, IIIB: 4)
(IIIA: 2, IIIB: 4) [1]
First flightIIIA: 24 May 2000
IIIB: 21 February 2002
Last flightIIIA: 13 March 2004
IIIB: 3 February 2005
First stage
Powered by1 RD-180
Maximum thrust4,148.7 kN (932,700 lbf)
Specific impulse311 s (3.05 km/s)
Burn time132 seconds
PropellantRP-1 / LOX
Second stage (Atlas IIIA) – Centaur (SEC)
Powered by1 RL-10A
Maximum thrust99.2 kN (22,300 lbf)
Specific impulse451 s (4.42 km/s)
Burn time738 seconds
PropellantLH2 / LOX
Second stage (Atlas IIIB) – Centaur (DEC)
Powered by2 RL-10A
Maximum thrust147 kN (33,000 lbf)
Specific impulse449 s (4.40 km/s)
Burn time392 seconds
PropellantLH2 / LOX

The Atlas III (known as the Atlas II-AR (R for Russian) early in development [2]) was an American orbital launch vehicle, used in the years between 2000 and 2005.[3] It was the first member of the Atlas family since the Atlas A to feature a "normal" staging method, compared to the previous Atlas family members, which were equipped with two jettisonable outboard engines on the first (booster) stage (with a single center engine serving as the sustainer).


The Atlas III consisted of two stages. The first stage was new, but the upper stage was the Centaur, which is still in use today on the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The first stage engine was the Russian RD-180, which is also used by the Atlas V. The Atlas III was produced in two versions. The baseline was the Atlas IIIA, but the Atlas IIIB, featuring a twin-engine version of the Centaur upper stage, was also produced.[1]


The first flight of the Atlas III occurred on 24 May 2000, launching the Eutelsat W4 communications satellite into a geosynchronous orbit.[4] All Atlas III launches were made from Space Launch Complex 36B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). The Atlas III made its sixth and last flight on 3 February 2005, with a classified payload for the United States National Reconnaissance Office.[5][6]


Main article: GX (rocket)

The GX rocket, formerly under development by Galaxy Express Corporation, was originally intended to use the boost stage of the Atlas III, provided by Lockheed-Martin, and a newly designed upper stage. It would have launched from the Tanegashima Space Center, south of Kyūshū, Japan. In December 2009, the Japanese government decided to cancel the GX project.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Space Launch Report: Atlas III Data Sheet accessed September 24, 2014
  2. ^ "Lockheed Martin Selects RD-180 to Power Atlas IIAR". International Launch Services. 17 January 1996. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  3. ^ "Atlas IIIA". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 1 July 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2007.
  4. ^ "Atlas-3A (Atlas-IIIA)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  5. ^ Ray, Justin (3 February 2015). "Last Atlas 3 rocket launches a pair of spy satellites". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  6. ^ Plain, Charlie. "NASA – Out With a Bang!". Retrieved 6 June 2020. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "Japan scraps GX rocket development project". iStockAnalyst. 16 December 2009. Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2009.