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  Atlas: The Ultimate Weapon

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Author Topic:   Atlas: The Ultimate Weapon
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-31-2004 12:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Coming from C.G. Publishing/Apogee Books in March 2005...

"Atlas: The Ultimate Weapon, By Those Who Built It"
by Chuck Walker with Joel Powell

Atlas - The Ultimate Weapon is the story of the Atlas rocket, Americas first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), and workhorse of the civil and military space programs since the late 1950s.

The book is written by Chuck Walker, a participant in the Atlas program starting in 1953 with the prime contractor, Convair-Astronautics. Mr. Walker began his career with Convair as a test engineer for Atlas, later moving to the Test Planning Group and then became manager of Program Control for Atlas. In his role of establishing the schedules of all work done at Convair-Astronautics, Mr. Walker came to know personally many of the people who were responsible for running the Atlas program. It was these people that Mr. Walker approached to tell the story of the Atlas program in their own words.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part covers the military career of Atlas from conception through to the costly development and deployment of the weapon system at bases scattered throughout the United States. Chapters 1 through 3 cover the genesis of the program through work on the MX-774 prototype missile. Chapters 4 through 12 discuss the Atlas design, its production and test facilities, and development testing to the point of Initial Operational Capability of the Atlas ICBM. Chapters 13 through 15 describe the activation of the initial Strategic Air Command squadrons, the training facilities that supported them, and the subsequent deactivation of the Atlas squadrons in 1965 when the Minuteman missile took over the nuclear deterent role from Atlas.

The second part of the book relates to the role of Atlas in Americas space programs from the late 1950s to the present day. Chapters 17 and 18 describe the high-performance Centaur upper stage used for communication satellite and space probe launches, as well as the versatile Agena stage. The Project Mercury manned space flights with Atlas are also covered in detail. Part Two closes with a look back on the Atlas program from the personal perspective of some of the key participants. The appendices list the flight history of the Atlas and also detail key program events and milestones. Biographies of prominent Atlas managers and the contributors to this book are also included. The book is profusely illustrated with over 100 black-and-white photographs from the Convair archives, many of which have never been published before, and there is also a section of spectacular color photographs. The original version of Atlas will be retired by the time this book is released, but parts of the Atlas legacy lives on in the form of the Centaur upper stage (and even its famous name) in the Atlas V replacement vehicle built by the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

[This message has been edited by Robert Pearlman (edited December 31, 2004).]

E2M Lem Man

Posts: 793
From: Los Angeles CA. USA
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 09-05-2005 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Chuck Walker and Joel Powell have written one of the best books to date about the history and uses of the first American Intercontinental Ballistic Missile- the Atlas.

It details how the Vultee Corporation started building the MX-774 rocket nearly 60 years ago and how it led to the Convair Atlas ICBM and became todays Lockheed Martin Atlas V commercial launcher.

For the first time the reader gets to see behind the classifed world that was Atlas. The test stands, the test firings and the Silos, and what went on in designing and building them.

The book tells of the innovations of the stage-and-a-half rocket, whose skin was so thin that it had to be inflated to keep its shape! Some of the stories include what happened during the Cuban missile crisis when every Atlas that could be fueled was ready to be hurled at the Soviet Union.

The Atlas story started to be told in the in the early 1960s' and I find that this book jumps around in the retelling of these stories. The major problem with this book is that it is based on interviews and does not ask specific questions, like -what happened during a failure like Figure 12-6 illistrates, or how and why did they replace the sustainer engine for John Glenn's Atlas 109-D while it stood vertically on the launch pad? I still want to hear the answer to that one! There is also very little about Atlas and its uses in Project Gemini- the second American manned space project There might be a photo of an unusual Atlas configuration on one page, but the simplist of discriptions making you want to know more about that specific launch!

But these little stories are also the books major strength. There are stories about the watering holes that the men hung out in during those days, and what life was like at such remote sites like Vandenberg Air Force baseor Kawajalwn Island. The book also goes into the final costs of the weapon systems.

The second part of the book tells of the evolution of the Centaur and Agena upper stages that allowed Atlas to boost spacecraft to the farthest reaches of the Solar System, and launch Americas' intellegence assets into orbit.

The book concludes with stories and appendix about what happened to the various personnel, and key events in history that for Atlas included: launching the first U.S. probes to land on the Moon, and spacecraft that traveled to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

ERRORS- Figure 18-6 and 18-13 do not show John Glenn's Atlas- Mercury 6 (Atlas 109-D), but Atlas- Mercury 4. and in Appendix B- what happened to launch number 64? and why does Canada have the only original Atlas A?

I wish that there was a DVD disc about the Atlases in this one- but sadly there is not.


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