Tuesday, September 1, 2009

50 YA - Atlas ICBM becomes Operational

Atlas missile test at Vandenberg AFB, California

Fifty years ago, the Atlas InterContinental Ballistic Missile was designated as operational at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California. It's purpose was to launch a heavy nuclear warhead across the oceans to reach the Soviet Union, should a nuclear war be declared. Thankfully that never happened. In 1959, 6 of the missiles were placed in service, with that number doubling over the next year.

Atlas Launch

Although there were still to be many test launches (and some spectacular failures as well), the Atlas was definitely more capable than the Redstone. Both of these missiles were being tested for other purposes than warhead delivery. The Redstone (Jupiter-derived) would be used later to launch our first two Mercury manned missions (suborbital), and the Atlas would eventually launch other Mecury orbital missions and satellite projects as well.

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