A commemorative ceremony and historical reunion honoring the Centaur stage booster, "Celebrating Centaur: Then and Now," will take place Friday, Feb. 25, at the Lockheed Martin Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
More than 150 personnel who worked on the Centaur program over a span of more than 40 years will be on hand to reminisce about their participation in the program's storied history. They also will hear a bevy of space industry leaders discuss the rocket's past, present and future legacy.
The Centaur high-energy upper stage has been used for 128 missions for NASA, in addition to its history of commercial and U.S. Air Force missions launched aboard the Atlas and Titan.
Ceremony participants include Jim Kennedy, director of the Kennedy Space Center; U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. (Select) Mark Owen, commander of the 45th Space Wing; and Steve Francois, director of NASA's Launch Services Program Office.
Other guest speakers include Jim Sponnick, Lockheed Martin Atlas Program vice president; Adriane Laffitte, director of Atlas Programs at Cape Canaveral; and Dr. Virginia P. Dawson, co-author of "Taming Liquid Hydrogen: The Centaur Upper Stage Rocket 1958-2002."
The Centaur, developed by NASA and originally manufactured by General Dynamics, had its first successful launch on Nov. 27, 1963, atop an Atlas booster from 36-A. With only a single exception, every NASA spacecraft bound for the outer planets has been launched using a Centaur.
The Centaur legacy will continue this year with the launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and in 2006, with the launch of Pluto New Horizons to the outermost planet in the Solar System.