Centaur 6A Rocket Lowered into the Space Power Chambers
Centaur 6A Rocket Lowered into the Space Power Chambers

The Centaur second-stage rocket was Lewis Research Center's most enduring contribution to the space program.Centaur's primary assignment was to carry the Surveyor spacecraft on its pre-Apollo missions to explore the moon.

Lewis, which had ample experience with liquid hydrogen and Centaur's Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engines, undertook an extensive effort in the early 1960s to test and improve rocket. The Space Power Chambers contained a vacuum tank, cold wall, and solar simulator that could replicate the conditions found in space. Several problems were identified and remedied during these simulated missions. Centaur not only made the Surveyor program a success but would go on to perform over 175 missions with only a handful of failures. These missions included Pioneer, Viking, the Lunar Orbiter, Orbiting Astronomical Observatories, Cassini, and others.

Image Credit: NASA

Page Last Updated: August 2nd, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator