Zoomed out view of Kuiper with Atlas rocket. He is quite small.

Atlas rocket

Zoomed in view of Kuiper with Atlas rocket.

SM-65E Atlas with Kuiper for scale. This Atlas was used for static testing in April 1960 at Sycamore Canyon Test Facility in San Diego. Thank you @sandiegoairandspace for allowing Kuiper to make a special visit to check out this rocket, the flown Apollo 9 capsule, LOX tank from Apollo 13 and other artifacts.

We’re back! My @jococruise space talks went super well, and I didn’t even have to use @littlebittyinthebigcity‘s emergency peacock call to get the audience’s attention. (Thank you @enzo_mph for this very reasonable question. 😂) I’ll post the recording as soon as I’m finished adding subtitles.

Onward! We’re nearly up to 1962, which means we have a little over 7 years to cover in the next 4 months! 😅 To recap, we’ve successfully flown suborbital flights with Ham the chimp as well as Shepard and Grissom the humans. Next we’ll send an American all the way around the Earth on our first orbital flight. However, for that we’ll need a bigger rocket.

Enter the Atlas. You may recall that Redstone was a US Army project; Atlas was created in parallel by the Air Force. The V2 and Redstone were “short-range” missiles (i.e. a few hundred miles.) In contrast, the Atlas was designed as our first “intercontinental” ballistic missile (a few thousand miles!) In addition to being bigger (~11 feet taller and nearly double the diameter) than our Redstone launcher, our Atlas launcher gave us nearly 5x the thrust.

Much of this thrust came from the side boosters. We call this design “stage and a half” because it’s not really one stage like our Redstone launcher’s single engine. However, it’s not really two stages either, because all three engines are lit at the same time rather than one after the other. During flight, the side engines help get the rocket off the ground, then fall away while the center engine keeps on keeping on.

Early unmanned test flights of the Atlas launcher were…concerning…such that the Mercury 7 insisted that NASA fly a chimp before John Glenn. Fortunately, Enos was successfully recovered after 2 orbits on Mercury-Atlas 5.

Additional fun fact: the first commercial use of WD-40 was to protect the outer skin of Atlas missiles!

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvInQE2jkJc/

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