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  Centaur: Pioneering space launch for 50 years

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Author Topic:   Centaur: Pioneering space launch for 50 years
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 28206
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-10-2012 08:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance release
United Launch Alliance Recognizes Centaur - Pioneering Space Launch for 50 years

United Launch Alliance (ULA) recognizes the 50th anniversary of the Centaur upper stage, which flew its first test flight on May 8, 1962.

The Centaur rocket was this nation's first high-energy upper stage launch vehicle. Historically, most rockets burn kerosene fuel, but the Centaur uses an extremely high-performing liquid-hydrogen/liquid-oxygen propellant combination that has since been adopted for several other historic rocket systems. The original Centaur rocket measures 30 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. Fully fueled it weighed more than 35,000 pounds.

"The first Centaur launches in the early 1960's demonstrated the extremely high performance that can be achieved with a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket stage," said Jim Sponnick, ULA's vice president of Mission Operations. "This technology was critical for the Apollo programs and also for enabling a wide variety of flexible mission designs for Atlas and several other rocket systems."

The technologies developed and verified on the Centaur have now flown 201 Centaur missions and these technologies were also used for the Saturn I, Saturn V, Space Shuttle, Titan, and Delta programs. Centaur has delivered scientific missions to explore the sun, moon, and every planet in our solar system.

"Centaur's long and distinguished history is an enabler for the United States to take next steps in space exploration, including human spaceflight to the International Space Station and other destinations, as well as continuing to support our sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines in protecting our national interests throughout the world," said Sponnick.

The overall Centaur stage architecture is fundamentally the same as the versions flown in the early 60's — with a thin-walled stainless-steel pressure-stabilized structure that provides the most weight-efficient stage possible. In addition, the Centaur is still powered by an evolved version of the very reliable and proven RL10 engine built by Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne.

"All of the components, subsystems, and overall capabilities have evolved dramatically over the last 50 years," said Sponnick. "Evolutionary changes over the five-decade history of the Centaur have made for an increasingly flexible and reliable upper stage that has triple the performance capabilities of the first Centaurs developed and flown by rocket pioneers in the early 1960's."

As it has through the last 50 years, the Centaur system continues to evolve and improve. ULA engineers are currently developing and qualifying improved versions of the Centaur avionics system, the RL10 engine system, and the pneumatic and ordnance systems used on the Centaur upper stage.

ULA program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

wickball
Member

Posts: 79
From: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 05-10-2012 05:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wickball   Click Here to Email wickball     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Got to throw in a plug for the Glenn (Lewis) Research Center where I believe this was developed.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 28206
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-27-2013 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance release
United Launch Alliance Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Launch of Centaur

Centaur Continues to Meet Customer Requirements for Reduced Cost and Enhanced Capabilities

United Launch Alliance (ULA) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first successful launch of the Centaur upper stage during the Ohio Aerospace Institute event on Nov. 22. Centaur was recognized as the hallmark of innovative design and engineering excellence.

"By harnessing the power of liquid hydrogen to launch payloads to space, both near and far, the Centaur is the benchmark by which all other are measured," said Matt Smith, ULA's vice president of Engineering and Information Technology.

General Dynamics and NASA partnered to develop Centaur in the height of the space race.

The first Centaur launches in the early 1960s demonstrated extremely high performance that can be achieved with a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket stage and provided the energy needed to propel larger missions to the moon and beyond.

Using an innovative approach, the team designed a tank with propellant compartments separated by a double walled bulkhead which also serves as a heat barrier to reduce the boil off of the much colder liquid hydrogen. Although Centaur has always flown on Atlas rockets, Centaur variants were subsequently used for the Saturn I, Saturn V, Space Shuttle, Titan, and Delta programs.

"Centaur celebrated its 200th flight in 2012 and has sent spacecraft to nearly every planet in our solar system, as well as delivering vital commercial and national security payloads," said Smith. "Fifty years today after its first successful launch, Centaur continues to deliver the highest mass fraction of any cryogenic upper stage, as well as meet customer requirements for reduced cost and enhanced capabilities."

In 2012, ULA, in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office, developed the aft bulkhead carrier to launch auxiliary payloads mounted to the Centaur. These rideshare missions provide lower cost launch opportunities for customers with smaller payloads.

ULA is currently developing the next generation of Centaur, the Advanced Common Evolved Stage (ACES) to support multiple objectives, including 50 percent payload growth.

"ACES will enable unparalleled mission flexibility and incorporate the Integrated Vehicle Fluids, or IVF system, stretching mission capability from hours to weeks," said Dr. George Sowers, ULA's vice president of Strategic Architecture. "This replaces the existing hydrazine, helium and battery systems."

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