The Atlas-Agena was a series of American launch vehicles used in the 1960s for a variety of space missions. The Atlas rocket was used as the first stage, and the Agena rocket stage served as the upper stage. The combination of the Atlas and Agena was versatile and played a crucial role in various space missions, including satellite launches, planetary exploration, and crewed spaceflights.
Some notable missions using the Atlas-Agena configuration include:
- Ranger Program (1961-1965): The Ranger spacecraft were designed to take close-up images of the Moon. Several Ranger missions used the Atlas-Agena to launch the spacecraft toward lunar targets.
- Mariner Program (1962-1973): The Mariner spacecraft were used for planetary exploration, including missions to Venus, Mars, and Mercury. The Atlas-Agena launched several Mariner spacecraft.
- Discoverer Program (1959-1962): The Discoverer series was a covert program that served as a cover for the Corona reconnaissance satellite program. The Atlas-Agena launched Discoverer satellites into polar orbits, and these missions were some of the earliest attempts at reconnaissance from space.
- Gemini Program (1965-1966): The Atlas-Agena launched some of the early Gemini missions, which were part of NASA’s human spaceflight program. The Agena stage was used as a target vehicle for the Gemini spacecraft to practice rendezvous and docking maneuvers.
- OAO Program (1966-1972): The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) program utilized the Atlas-Agena for launching space telescopes and observatories designed to observe celestial objects without interference from Earth’s atmosphere.
These missions contributed significantly to space exploration and technology development during the 1960s. The Atlas-Agena combination provided a reliable and flexible platform for a range of scientific and reconnaissance objectives.
Horizon Models bring this new model (tooled in 2023) derived from their Atlas kits (Horizon Models – 2001 – Convair SM-65D Atlas and Horizon Models – 2002 – MERCURY™-ATLAS) with new parts and able to build in different Atlas-Agema configurations as the used in the Gemini program, with Agema target vehicle (ATV) or Augmented Target Docking Adapter (ATDA).
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