Encyclopedia Astronautica
Centaur V2

American space tug. Study 2001. Upper stage / space tug - in production. Twin engined Centaur for Atlas V, powered by two Pratt & Whitney RL10A-4-2 turbopump-fed engines burning liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

For heavy payload, low earth orbit missions, Centaur would use two RL10 engines to maximize boost phase mission performance. Guidance, tank pressurization, and propellant usage controls for both Atlas and Centaur phases were provided by the inertial navigation unit (INU) located on the Centaur forward equipment module.

Gross mass: 23,050 kg (50,810 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 2,250 kg (4,960 lb).
Height: 12.68 m (41.60 ft).
Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft).
Span: 3.05 m (10.00 ft).
Thrust: 198.40 kN (44,602 lbf).
Specific impulse: 451 s.

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Associated Propellants
  • Lox/LH2 Liquid oxygen was the earliest, cheapest, safest, and eventually the preferred oxidiser for large space launchers. Its main drawback is that it is moderately cryogenic, and therefore not suitable for military uses where storage of the fuelled missile and quick launch are required. Liquid hydrogen was identified by all the leading rocket visionaries as the theoretically ideal rocket fuel. It had big drawbacks, however - it was highly cryogenic, and it had a very low density, making for large tanks. The United States mastered hydrogen technology for the highly classified Lockheed CL-400 Suntan reconnaissance aircraft in the mid-1950's. The technology was transferred to the Centaur rocket stage program, and by the mid-1960's the United States was flying the Centaur and Saturn upper stages using the fuel. It was adopted for the core of the space shuttle, and Centaur stages still fly today. More...

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