The Burner, Burner II, and Burner IIA rocket stages have been used as upper stages of launch vehicles such as the Thor-Burner and Delta since 1965. The Burner 1 stage was also called the Altair stage and was derived from the fourth stage of the Scout launch vehicle.[1] The Burner 2 stage was powered by a Star 37 solid rocket motor.

In September 1965, Air Force Space Systems Division announced the development of a new, low cost upper stage called Burner II. It was intended as the smallest maneuverable upper stage in the Air Force inventory. In June 1967, the first Thor/Burner II vehicle successfully launched a pair of satellites to orbit. In June 1969, the Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) began development of the Burner IIA configuration which would offer a tandem motor injection capability and almost twice the capability of Burner II.[2] In June 1971, the last of the Burner II missions was launched from Vandenberg by a Thor/Burner II launch vehicle and carried an SESP-1 space environmental satellite.[3]

In addition to use on Delta family rockets, Burner 2 stages have been used on both Atlas and Titan rockets.[4] Atlas E/F vehicles were configured with a Burner II/IIA stage and launched in 1968 and 1972. The first launch failed with the second delivering a radiation research payload for the Space Test Program (P72-1 Radsat) using Burner IIA.[5]

In the mid-1970s Burner II was also studied for use as an upper stage in combination with the Space Shuttle. NASA managers choose other solutions for missions where upper stages were required.[6]


  1. ^ Launius, Roger D.; Dennis R. Jenkins (2002). To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 186–213. ISBN 0813127211.
  2. ^ Space and Missile Systems Organization, A Chronology, 1954-1979 (PDF) (Report). Defense Technical Information Center. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
  3. ^ White, J. Terry (June 4, 2012). "Thor Burner II Finale". White Eagle Aerospace. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
  4. ^ "Star 37". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on October 16, 2008.
  5. ^ Powell, J.W.; Richards, G.R. (1991). "The Atlas E/F Launch Vehicle - An Unsung Workhorse" (PDF). Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 44: 229–240. Bibcode:1991JBIS...44..229P.
  6. ^ Weyers, Vernon J.; Sagerman, Gary D.; Borsody, Janos; Lubick, Robert J. (June 1974). Comparative Evaluation of Existing Expendable Upper Stages for Space Shuttle (PDF) (Report). NASA NTRS. p. 9. Retrieved December 3, 2022.