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TELS WO 2-4155
WO 3-6925

FOR RELEASE. A.M. 's Monday

June 22, 1964 4

RELEASE NO: 64-143


The third hydrogen-powered Centaur launch vehicle will be

test flown from Cape Kennedy, Fla., no earlier than June 25 by
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Atlas-Centaur mission, designated AC-3, is one of eight

planned engineering development missions to qualify Centaur as a
medium weight launch vehicle for NASA lunar and planetary explora-
tion programs.

When operational, Centaur's primary mission will be to soft-

land the Surveyor spacecraft on the Moon to make surface studies
in support of later manned landings. Surveyor missions are
scheduled to begin in 1965. Centaur also is being considered for
Mariner missions to Venus and Mars.

Centaur (AC-2), launched from Cape Kennedy, Nov. 27, 1963,

was the first rocket to fly with a hydrogen-oxygen propulsion sys-
tem. The second stage of AC-2 was placed in an Earth orbit with
an apogee of 1100 miles and a perigee of 295 miles. The AC-2
mission successfully accomplished all flight objectives.


AC-3 has similar flight objectives except that second

stage insulation panels and a Surveyor-type nose fairing will

be jettisoned after Centaur passes through the Earth's atmos-

phere. In addition, after a six-minute burn of the Centaur

engines and a coast period, the RL-10 engine boost pumps will be

restarted to determine that propellants are sufficiently "bottomed"

in their tanks so that the engines could be ignited again. The

restarting of the engines is not planned, however, until AC-4.

On AC-3, the single burn of the Centaur engines will insert

the empty second stage -- weighing about 8200 pounds -- into an

elliptical orbit with an apogee of 3600 miles and a perigee of 340

miles. The apogee will be higher than that of AC-2 because the

jettisoning of the insulation panels and nose fairing greatly

reduces the weight of the Centaur stage by the time the RL-10

engines ignite. Achievement of orbit, however, is not an objective

of the AC-3 flight.

This third test flight originally was scheduled in April. It

was postponed for redesign of the insulation panels and further

testing of how they are Jettisoned after Centaur has climbed above

the atmosphere.

In early tests, it was round that air between the panels and

the tanks, containing the liquid hydrogen fuel at -423 degrees F.,

froze solid causing the panels to stick. A system using


helium gas to purge air from between the panels and tank wall

was modified and successful panel jettison tests were completed

at Point Loma, Calif., before the AC-3 flight was rescheduled.

Centaur is a program of the Launch Vehicle and Propulsion

Programs Division of NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications.

It is being developed by General Dynamics/Astronautics (GD/A),

San Diego, Calif., under technical direction of the NASA Lewis

Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. Pratt and Whitney Aircraft

Division of United Aircraft Corp., West Palm Beach, Fla., is

associate prime contractor for the RL-10 hydrogen engine under

technical direction of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center,

Huntsville, Ala. More than 300 other contractors throughout the

country are participating in the program.

Centaur launches are conductea by GD/A under the direction

of Goddard Space Flight C nter's Launch Operations Branch for the

Lewis Research Center.



The third test flight of the hydrogen-powered Atlas-Centaur

launch vehicle is scheduled at Cape Kenredy, Fla., no earlier

than June 25.


This section contains additional information on the mission

objectives, vehicle description, flight sequence, instrumentation,

tracking aad program participants.


Primary test objectives of the AC-3 mission are:

1. Demonstrate the ability oP the Centaur nose fairing and insula-

tion panez i to withstand loads encountered during flight through

the atmosphere and to jettison properly.

2. Verify the structural integrity of the Atlas and Centaur stages

during all phases of flight.

3. Demonstrate the satisfactory operation of the Atlas-Centavr

separation system.

4. Demonstrate the ability of the Centaur propulsion system to

start in the flight environment and burn for full duration.

5. Demonstrate system integrity and obtain data on the measuring

accuracy of the guidance system.

6. Obtain data on the launch-on-schedule capability of the Atlas-

Centaur vehicle from Complex 36A.

Although the Centaur stage will be placed into Earth orbit,

this is not a mission objective. The purpose of flight-testing

the vehicle is to obtain additional data, to verify ground test


results, to demonstrate and verify information that cannot

be obtained through ground testing and to obtain other data

necessary for vehicle and subsystem performance evaluation.

AC-3 also will serve as a test bed to assist in determining

final operational design.

In addition to primary test objectives, areas of special

interest on the AC-3 mission include obtaining data on the ability

of the RL-10 boost pumps to re-start in flight; on environments

such as pressures, temperatures and vibration levels; and obtain

performance data on all Atlas-Centaur systems.


AC-3 consists of a modified Series D Atlas (SLV-3C) booster

combined with a high-energy Centaur second stage. Both stages

are 10 feet in diameter and are connected by an interstage

adapte-. Both the Atlas and Centavr stages maintain their siape

through pressurization.

AC-3, including its Surveyor-type nose fairing, stands

approximately 112 feet high. Its weight at liftoff is about 300,000


The Atlas first stage, 66 feet high including the interstage

adapter, uses a standard MA-5 propulsion system consisting of two

booster engines and one sustainer engine powered by liquid oxygen

and RP-1. The engines, which develop more than 360,000 pounds

of thrust, are produced by Rocketdyne Division of North American

Aviation, Inc., Canoga Park, Calif. Two small vernier engines

provide roll directional control.

The Centaur second stage, including the nose fairing, is

46 feet long. It is powered by two RL-'.0 hydrogen-fueled engines

developing a total of 30,000 pounds of thrust at altitude.

The RL-10 which has performed flawlessly on three NASA

engineering development flights, has accumulated more than 190

hours of ground static firing time in some 5,000 tests.

The engine is capable of being shutdown and restarted during


The AC-3 flight vehicle will carry jettisonable insulation

panels and a Surveyor-type nose fairing. The insulation panels,

fabricated by the Fort Worth Division of General Dynamics, cover

the second stage liquid hydrogen tank from the nose fairing to the

interstagr; adapter.

Liquid hydrogen must be kept at a cryogenic temperature of

423 degrees below zero F. or it will vaporize. The insulation

panels surround the Centaur stage during powered flight through


the Earth's atmosphere to prevent the heat of air friction from

causing undue liquid hydrogen boil-off. They also prevent

air around the hydrogen tank from freezing solid, weighing down

the vehicle and holding the insulation panels on after they are


The four panels, which weigh a total of over 700 pounds, con-

sist of a Fiberglas honeycomb, foam-filled sandwich construction.

About three minutes after lift-off, when the vehicle is at an

altitude of about 80 miles, the panels are separated from each

other and from Centaur by flexible linear-shaped charges. Jettison

hinges rotate the panels away from the flight vehicle. The separation

system consists of pyrotechnic V-shaped charges, which cut struc-

tural angles bolted to each panel.

Because of the weight penalty imposed by the insulation

panels and to improve the reliability of the vehicle, the Lewis

Research Center is studying and testing various lightweight, non-

Jettisonable insulation systems, including non-rigid, filament-

wound foam systems. Other systems under study would be fabricated

of ablative or sublimative materials.

Small hydrogen peroxide rockets mounted on the second stage

provide additional thrust for propellant ullage control -- to

'bottom" the propellants before ignition -- as well as attitude

control during coast periods.


The Centaur vehicle is controlled in flight by an all-inertial

guidance system consisting basically of a four-gimbal, three gyro

inertial platform and a general purpose digital computer. During

the AC-3 mission, the vehicle will be flown "open loop," except

for use of the inertial platform for attitude reference during

Centaur (second stage) powered flight.

All main flight events, such as Atlas engine shutdown, separa-

tion, starting and shutdown of Centaur engines, will be controlled

by preset timers.

Test conditions necessary for the AC-3 launch include

acceptable vehicle wind loads calculated from winds aloft and sur-
face wind data. Also, to insure adequate photographic coverage,
the launch and ascent must be in relatively clear sky and during

those hours favorable for photo coverage -- roughly between 10 a.m.

and 4 p.m. EDT.


At liftoff from Launch Complex 36A, the Atlas engines are

ignited, developing more than 360,000 pounds of thrust. Atlas-

Centaur will rise vertically for the first 15 seconds and roll slowly

from the launcher heading of 105 degrees to the desired flight plane

azimuth of 100.5 degrees, placing the vehicle over desired tracking



At T plus 15 seconds, when AC-3 is about 900 feet above the

launcher, the vehicle will begin pitching over to the preset flight


About 150 seconds after launch, the two Atlas booster engines

will shut down and the booster section containing the two engines

will be jettisoned. At this point, AC-3 will be at an altitude

of 50 miles, 35 miles downrange, and traveling about 7,700 feet

per second.

About 230 seconds after launch, the Atlas sustainer engine

will cut off. Two vernier engines will continue to provide final

velocity and attitude trim until AC-3 is 138 miles downrange at

an altitude of 130 miles. At that time the verniers shut down.

Immediately after the verniers stop, the interstage adapter

will be cut by a shaped explosive charge, freeing the Centaur

stage from its Atlas booster. Eight solid propellant motors on

Atlas will fire to slow the vehicle and prevent it from bumping

the second stage. At the same time, four vernier motors on

Centaur will fire to increase the rate of separation.

The Centaur verniers will continue to fire for a few seconds

after separation to settle propellants at the end of the tank.

Also liquid hydrogen will flow through the Center propulsion system

to chill the boost pumps.



Second stage ignition occurs about 245 seconds after launch.

The RL-10 engines are programmed for one burn lasting 377 seconds.
This burn of the RL-10's will inject the stage into an orbit at
perigee altitude of 3 40 miles.

Following shutdown of the second stage engines, Centaur will

coast for about 400 seconds, stabilized by small attitude rockets.
The four 50-pound thrust vernier motors will be restarted to settle
propellants nea? the rear of the tanks. The boost pumps will then
be restarted for 30 seconds to determine if propellants would be in
a satisfactory position to restart the pumps during weightless

Following the boost pump experiment, attitude control of

Centaur will be stopped and it will go into drifting flight in an
elliptical Earth orbit with an apogee of 3600 miles and a perigee
of 3 40 miles. Its internal power supply will permit telemetry
transmission of environmental data for about eight hours.

After orbital injection, Centaur will cross Southern Africa,

the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean (north of Australia and near
Hawaii) and Central America. Its second orbit will begin over
South America.

The orbital period will be about 155 minutes. In a nominal

orbit, Centaur will remain in Earth orbit for 2,000 years.


In orbit, the weight of Centaur will be about 8200 pounds,


Although the AC-3 vehicle will not carry a scientific pay-

load, it will be heavily instrumented. The telemetry system

will radio data measurements from Centaur for about eight hours

after launch.

Of the 540 measurements on the AC-3 vehicle, some 360 are on

the upper stage, sending information on engine performance,

guidance system and autopilot operation, and structural behavior.

The remaining data measurements are )n the booster stage and

relate primarily to engine function and guidance systems, plus

standard vibration, bending and temperature measurements.


AC-3 will be carefully tracked during powered and orbital

portions of its flight to obtain performance information.

Initial powered fLight tracking down the Atlantic Missile

Range will be accomplished by C-band radar and Azusa Mark II/Glotrac

systems by stations at Cape Kennedy, Antigua, Grand Bahama, San

Salvador and Bermuda.


These tracking data will be used to compare the actual

vehicle podition and Velocity during powered flight with the
telemetered guidance system computed data.

Following injection into orbit, a C-band transponder attached

to the Centaur stage will be tracked until depletion of its
battery power -- about two hours -- by radar tracking stations
located at Ascension, South Africa, Australia, Hawaii and
Southern California. This network is coordinated by the NASA
Goddard Space Flight Center using NASA and national range facilities.

Precision tracking data for a longer period will be supplied

by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's world-wide network
cf Baker-Nunn cameras.

Tracking data also will be used to accurately determine param-

eters of orbital injection at the time of burnout which in turn will
be a measure of the vehicle's performance.

NASA Headquarters
Dr. Homer E. Newell Associate Administrator for
Space Science and Applications.
Vincent L. Johnson Director, Launch Vehicle and
Propulsion Programs Division and
Acting Centaur Program Manager,



Lewis Research Center

Dr. Abe Silverstein Director, Lewis Research Center.
Bruce T. Lundin Associate Director for Develop-
David S. Gabriel Centaur Project Manager.

Goddard Space Flight Center

Robert Gray Chief, Goddard Space Flight Center
Launch Operations.

Grant L. Hansen Centaur Program Director and vice-
president, General Dynamics/
Gordon Titcomb RL-10 Project Manager, Pratt and
Whitney Aircraft Division of
United Aircraft.