Encyclopedia Astronautica
Centaur V1


Lox/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 22,825/2,026 kg. Thrust 99.19 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 451 seconds. Single-engine Centaur for Atlas V. Centaur is powered by either one or two Pratt & Whitney RL10A-4-2 turbopump-fed engines burning liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. For typical, high-energy mission applications, Centaur will be configured with one RL10 engine. Guidance, tank pressurization, and propellant usage controls for both Atlas and Centaur phases are provided by the inertial navigation unit (INU) located on the Centaur forward equipment module.

Status: Active.
Gross mass: 22,825 kg (50,320 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 2,026 kg (4,466 lb).
Height: 12.68 m (41.60 ft).
Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft).
Span: 3.05 m (10.00 ft).
Thrust: 99.19 kN (22,300 lbf).
Specific impulse: 451 s.
Burn time: 894 s.
Number: 21 .

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Associated Countries
Associated Engines
  • RL-10A-4-2 Pratt and Whitney lox/lh2 rocket engine. 99.1 kN. In production. Isp=451s. Used on Atlas IIIB launch vehicle. First flight 2002. Two engines; electro-mechanical thrust vector control actuators replaced earlier hydraulically actuated system. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Atlas V 401 American orbital launch vehicle. Atlas V version with a 4-m diameter payload fairing, single engine Centaur upper stage, and no strap-on solid boosters. Payloads: 7,095 kg (15,642 lb) to sun synchronous orbit; 4,950 kg (10,910 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit. More...
  • Atlas V 521 American orbital launch vehicle. Atlas V with 5-m diameter payload fairing, single engine Centaur upper stage, and two strap-on solid boosters. Payloads: 10,161 kg (22,401 lb) to sun synchronous orbit; 6,485 kg (14,297 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit. More...
  • Atlas V 501 Atlas V with 5-m diameter payload fairing, single engine Centaur upper stage, and no strap-on solid boosters. Payloads: 6,319 kg (13,931 lb) to sun synchronous orbit; 3,970 kg (8,752 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit. More...
  • Atlas V 431 American orbital launch vehicle. Atlas V with 4-m diameter payload fairing, single engine Centaur upper stage, and three strap-on solid boosters. Payloads: 11,547 kg (25,458 lb) to sun synchronous orbit; 7,800 kg (17,196 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit. More...
  • Atlas V 411 American orbital launch vehicle. Atlas V with 4-m diameter payload fairing, single engine Centaur upper stage, and one strap-on solid booster. Payloads: 8,763 kg (19,320 lb) to sun synchronous orbit; 6,075 kg (13,393 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit. More...

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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