Atlas Agena D at Complex 13
Atlas Agena D at Complex 13 Zoom

It is July 20th of 1965, and an Atlas Agena D (vehicle ID 225D) lifts off from Complex 13. Its payload consists of two Vela satellites (3A and 3B). Vela satellites were used to detect nuclear tests, and were launched specifically to monitor compliance with treaties such as the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Velas were always launched in tandem. There were a total of six sets of Velas, and the last of them operated into the 1980s.

The Atlas Agena D (also referred to as the Atlas LV-3A) is derived from the Atlas SLV-3 used to launch the Gemini Agena Target Vehicles. The only major difference between the two is an improved upper (Agena) stage.

Atlas Agena D specifications and performance
Length 102 ft. Diameter 10 ft.
Stage Stage name Engine(s) Propellant(s) Thrust
0 Atlas MA-5 2 Rocketdyne XLR-89-7 (boosters) LOX, RP-1 367,000 lbs.
1 Atlas Agena SLV-3A 1 Rocketdyne LR-105-7 (sustainer) + 2 LR-101-NA7 verniers LOX, RP-1 59,000 lbs.
2 Agena D 1 Bell 8096 IRFNA, UMDH 16,000 lbs.

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Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force (from Jonathan's Space Home Page).
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