Science: Atlas in Orbit

The Atlas that went into orbit (see NATIONAL AFFAIRS) is technically called a 1½-stage rocket—a single engine plus ground-fired boosters. When its two booster engines stop firing, the main body, propelled by the central sustainer engine, flies out of the short cylindrical after-section that carries the boosters (see diagram). With the boosters gone, the sustainer engine has less dead weight to carry into space. In this particular model, the sustainer was designed to burn 13 seconds longer than in the regular models. Without this extra thrust, needed to put the Atlas into orbit,...

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