Real Rockets!

Atlas Launch
This is what I used to do for a living. I was the guy out there with the match used to light these things. No, just kidding about the matches! I used to build, test, transport, and launch Atlas Space Launch Vehicles. These are Atlas E rockets, former ICBM's, that were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch control center, where we are all cooped up for 3 hours before launch and 30 minutes after launch is located between the two tapered buildings, and is covered in smoke in the photograph above, which was taken from an Air Force helicopter circling overhead. The photo below is a ground-level shot showing the umbilical mast retracted and the rocket on its way. The main fire out the bottom is the three main engines. The fires to either side of the mains are the generators used to pump the fuel. The two small fires on the side of the rocket are the steering engines.
We used to build new Atlas I and Atlas II Launch Vehicles at Vandenberg, transport them to San Diego by road, then load them into a C-5 cargo aircraft for the trip to Cape Canaveral in Florida. This photo shows an onramp being negotiated by the truck and the tillermen steering the rear wheels of the trailer from pods in the rear where they rode for the whole trip. I had the distinction of being the only transportation engineer to have had a flat tire on the trailer, which just Atlas Transport Onramp
happened to be on the freeway in the middle of Los Angeles. When the tire blew, it took out the air brake hose on the trailer, making the trailer impossible to move. Fortunately, we stopped on an overpass just 50 yards from a truck and tractor supply house in San Fernando, California. They sold Fords. Cool. We were fixed and under way in about an hour. The shop had to make us a new air hose, and they loaned me an easy-out to remove the broken fitting from the air-brake pod. Talk about a good place to break down. We were lucky.
Click here to read more and see more photos of Atlas rockets on the road! I guarantee you'll be amazed!

Look out, it's ALIVE!!!

Atlas into C5

Here, a C-5 cargo airplane is swallowing an Atlas I rocket whole. Must have had some kinda bad indigestion after this. This is how we got the rockets from California to Florida. I got to ride with it once. You sit backwards in military aircraft, as long as you're not the pilot. No windows. No stewardesses. No movie. But it sure was fun! It was fast, too. Those things fly just as fast or faster than commercial aircraft. Amazing. And that distinctive sound you hear from the outside is what you hear inside the whole time.

The New Breed at Vandenberg!

This is the first Atlas Centaur vehicle to be erected on the West Coast! The pad is a converted Atlas H launch facility. The engineers had to add lots of structure and facilities to accomodate the larger vehicle and its hydrogen fuel. The new SLC3-E is the model of high-tech launch pads in the United States. This rocket is an Atlas 2AS, the "S" standing for "solid rocket boosters." You can see the forward support ring as a white band about a third of the way up the Atlas portion.


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