NW023 1/144 Atlas Centaur SLV-3C - first succesfull Centaur stage flight
The high-energy Centaur stage was the first
rocket to fly burning hydrogen with liquid oxygen. The Centaur
was a Convair design powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney
RL-10 engines. Four insulation panels around the stage prevented
the hydrogen from boiling off during launch preparations and
ascent through the atmosphere.
Centaur first flew atop an Atlas booster for a suborbital test on May 8, 1962. Less than a minute after launch, the Centaur stage exploded. On November 27, 1963, the second Atlas Centaur lifted off from Cape Canaveral. The Centaur stage placed itself into orbit. The Atlas Centaur's first payloads were Surveyor Moon landers. Later Atlas Centaur launched Mariner 6 - Mariner 10 Mars and Venus - Mercury probes. The farthest-flung Atlas Centaur payloads are Pioneer 10 and 11, launched on March 3, 1972, and April 6, 1973. On December 3, 1973, Pioneer 10 passed within 80,600 miles of Jupiter. Pioneer 10 became the first man-made object to exceed the Sun's escape velocity and travel into interstellar space.