NW043 Atlas D ICBM - First US operational ICBM
In 1955 Convair won the prime contract for Atlas ICBM.The
liquid oxygen and kerosene vehicle was designed to carry a
thermonuclear warhead over 7000 miles. The Atlas was unique in
its “stage and half” design in which two of its main engines
were shed to reduce weight after two minutes of flight, while the
central sustainer continued to burn. In order to minimize
sustainer tank weight (used also for booster engines), Convair
employeed balloon construction. Flights of Atlas began on June
11, 1957, with the launch of Atlas A powered by booster alone. In
November 1958, an Atlas B reached full design range, and the
operational Atlas D was deployed in 1960.
Atlas D served until 1964, when Atlas D's were taken off alert and shipped to Norton AFB, California, where retired Atlas ICBMs were stored for future use as launch vehicles in research a development programs.