Fun Facts

Rocket Fun Facts

  • A typical rocket produces more than a million pounds of thrust that allows it to carry more than 6,000 pounds at speeds topping 22,000 miles per hour. This is equivalent to the power generated by 13 Hoover Dams, carrying the weight of eight horses, and traveling at speeds 15 times faster than a speeding bullet!
  • Together, Atlas and Delta rockets have launched more than 1,300 missions.
  • The race to the moon relied on the highly successful flights of Atlas. In 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit when an Atlas launched his Friendship 7 spacecraft.
  • In January of 2006, Atlas V set a new world record during the launch of the New Horizons mission, for the fastest spacecraft at time of leaving Earth’s atmosphere – more than 36,000 miles per hour.  At this speed, it would only take 41 minutes and 44 seconds to go around the Earth’s Equator, which is 24,902 miles.  The spacecraft reached a top speed of 47,000 miles per hour.  A flight from Denver to New York would only take 2 minutes and 16 seconds at that rate.
  • A Delta II can launch a satellite that’s the equivalent weight of a Mercedes S500 sedan (approximately 4,200 lbs.).  An Atlas V or Delta IV can launch a satellite that’s the equivalent weight of a Humvee (approximately 6,500 lbs.).  As the largest launch vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy can launch a satellite that’s the equivalent weight of a semi-truck (approximately 29,000 lbs.).
  • To date, more than 220 separate spacecraft have been launched by the dependable Delta II.
  • Delta II has nearly a 99 percent mission success rate in its 25-year history, dating back to its debut launch on Feb. 14, 1989.
  • The Atlas V mobile launch platform (MLP), which transports the rocket from the vertical integration facility (VIF) to the launch pad, weighs 1.34 million pounds.  It takes the MLP about 30 minutes to roll the 1,800 feet from VIF to pad.
  • As recently as the IIAS version, the Atlas vehicle contained structural parts made out of wood. Fairleads, which are tube supports along the side of the booster tank, were machined out of Fir, a type of wood governed by a Mil Spec.
  • ULA’s Decatur, Alabama, production facility is 1.6 million square feet. Both Atlas and Delta launch vehicles are produced at the facility.
  • The Delta Mariner, the large cargo ship that transports vehicle hardware from the Decatur, Ala., factory to the launch sites, is 312 feet long.  Traveling from Decatur, along the Tennessee River to the open ocean, it takes approximately 8 days to transport hardware to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and 21 days to get to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
  • An Atlas V 500 series vehicle stands 205 feet tall – that’s almost 19 stories.
  • On Dec. 18, 1958, an entire Atlas B booster orbited the Earth carrying a tape-recorded Christmas greeting from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • Enos the chimp flew into space onboard a Mercury Atlas-5 (a mercury capsule on an Atlas D booster) on November 29, 1961. He completed his first orbit in 1 hour and 28.5 minutes.
  • Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) carried John Glenn into orbit on February 20, 1962, for three earth orbits.  John Glenn, became the first American to orbit the Earth.  The Mercury spacecraft, named Friendship 7, was carried to orbit by an Atlas LV-3B launch vehicle lifting off from Space Launch Complex-14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.