The SM-65 Atlas was the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) developed by the United States and the first member of the Atlas rocket family. It was built for the U.S. Air Force by the Convair Division of General Dynamics at an assembly plant located in Kearny Mesa, San Diego. Atlas became operational in October 1959, but was soon made obsolete as an ICBM by new development, and was retired from this role by 1965.
Atlas required long preparation times which made it unsuitable for a quick launch ICBM. However, this was not a requirement for planned space launches, and so Atlas-derived launch vehicles served a long history as space launchers. Even before its ICBM use ended in 1965, Atlas had placed four Project Mercury astronauts in orbit and was becoming the foundation for a family of successful space launch vehicles, most notably Atlas Agena and Atlas Centaur. Mergers led to the acquisition of the Atlas Centaur line by the United Launch Alliance. Today ULA supports the larger Atlas V, which combines the Centaur upper stage with a new booster. Until 2001, many retired Atlas ICBMs were refurbished and combined with upper stages to launch satellites.

View More On
  1. ronmart

    Aero Precision 6mm ARC Complete Upper from Brownells - any good?

    Due to lack of choices, I decided to order the 20" AR-15 6mm ARC complete upper (see here) since I'm eager to experiment with 6mm ARC. I don't see the choices getting any better anytime soon with what's going on in DC, so I settled and am hoping for the best. Anyone have experience with this or...
Back Top