Rocket Science 101

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Have Fun (Level 1):

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Payload Descriptions (Level 1):

Name: IBEX
Weight: The Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, is studying the way particles from the sun form a protective barrier around the solar system. Although it orbits Earth, IBEX has instruments that look at an area 10 billion miles away.
Weight: 176 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: October 19, 2008

Name: Kepler
Description: The Kepler spacecraft is looking constantly at a small area of the Milky Way galaxy to find planets like Earth. Its main instrument is set up like a digital camera to see when a planet moves by a star. Kepler has already discovered several planets orbiting other stars and continues to make notable discoveries.
Weight: 2,320 pounds
Location: Orbits around the Sun
Launch Date: March 6, 2009

Name: GOES-O
Description: The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) satellites are the nation's premier weather watchers. They stand post over the planet from 22,300 miles above Earth and show forecasters and the public what kind of weather to expect.
Weight: 7,088 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: June 27, 2009

Name: WISE
Description: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, known as WISE, is scanning the universe for the glow of the coolest stars, most luminous galaxies and asteroids.
Weight: 1,422 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: December 14, 2009

Name: Juno
Description: NASA launched the large Juno spacecraft to Jupiter to scan the planet for signs of water and other chemicals. Its findings may give researchers the answers to how the planet and solar system formed.
Weight: 7,992 pounds
Location: On course to Jupiter
Launch Date: August 8, 2011

Name: GRAIL
Description: Even though the moon is round, its gravity is stronger in some places and weaker in others. That's why a pair of special spacecraft have been sent to the moon on a mission to find out more about its gravity field.
Weight: 1,355 pounds
Location: Mission Complete
Launch Date: September 10, 2011

Name: MSL-Curiosity
Description: Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) - Curiosity is bigger than some cars. It carries a drill, grinder and laser to look inside the rocks and soil on Mars.
Weight: 8,463 pounds
Location: On course for Mars Landing
Launch Date: November 26, 2011

Name: NuStar
Description: NASA is launching the NuSTAR space telescope to search for black holes and exploded stars. It will map the universe using high-energy X-rays like those dentists use to see into teeth.
Weight: 805 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: June 13, 2012

Rocket Descriptions (Level 1):

Name: Delta II
Description: The Delta II launched some of NASA's most exciting missions, including three Mars rovers. The first Delta rocket launched in 1960 and has been improved steadily since then.
Weight: 334,300 - 511,180 pounds
Height: 125.3 - 127 feet
Diameter: 8 feet

Name: Delta IV
Description: The Delta IV is a very powerful rocket NASA uses when it wants to launch a heavier weather satellite high above Earth. From there, the spacecraft can use its special instruments to study the planet's climate and conditions.
Weight: 550,000 - 1,616,800 pounds
Height: 206 - 235 feet
Diameter: 16.4 feet

Name: Atlas V
Description: NASA uses the Atlas V rocket to launch spacecraft to distant worlds. The MSL-Curiosity rover rode atop an Atlas V to begin its nine-month journey to Mars.
Weight: 737,400 pounds
Height: 191.2 feet
Diameter: 12.49 feet

Name: Pegasus
Description: The Pegasus looks like an airplane, but it is a rocket that can send small spacecraft into orbit around Earth. A modified airliner carries the Pegasus to 39,000 feet before launch.
Weight: 51,000 pounds
Height: 58 feet
Diameter: 4.2 feet

Rocket Part Descriptions (Level 1):

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Fairing and Spacecraft
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage during the early portion of launch, when the aerodynamic forces from the atmosphere could affect the rocket. The fairing is jettisoned about two minutes into flight. The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely, depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: First Stage Structure
Part Description: The first stage has the strongest engine on the Delta II, along with boosters to increase the power at lift off. Most of the first stage is made up of tanks holding RP-1 refined kerosene and liquid oxygen. A solid mixture of fuel and oxidizer is molded inside the body of each of the Delta II's boosters. Once they are lit, they cannot be turned off. The first stage falls away when its engine has burned most of its fuel after a few minutes of flight.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Second Stage Structure
Part Description: The second stage is much smaller than the first stage. Its smaller engine ignites after the rocket has climbed above the thickest part of the atmosphere. The second stage keeps speeding up the spacecraft so it can reach orbit or go on to another place in the solar system.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Third Stage Structure
Part Description: The third stage carries a solid-fueled motor and attaches directly to the spacecraft. It gives an extra boost for heavy payloads or to push spacecraft out of Earth's orbit.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Fairing and Spacecraft
Part Description: The fairing goes around the spacecraft and protects during the first part of launch. It falls away from the rocket before the spacecraft is released. The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely, depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: First Stage Structure
Part Description: The Delta IV's first stage uses one very powerful engine to lift the rocket and spacecraft off the launch pad. It can use two or four boosters for extra thrust.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Second Stage Structure
Part Description:The second stage connects to the spacecraft on the top and holds the RL 10B-2 rocket engine along with a set of fuel and oxygen tanks.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Fairing and Spacecraft
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage from aerodynamic forces and heating during the initial ascent phase of flight. The Atlas 5-meter fairing is jettisoned about 3.5 minutes after liftoff.
The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely, depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Centaur Upper Stage
Part Description: The Centaur upper stage is powered by an RL-10 engine that can be re-started several times to boost a spacecraft into a high orbit or to another planet. It carries tanks holding liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for the engine and connects directly to the spacecraft.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Common Core Booster
Part Description: The common core booster is powered by an RD-180 engine that burns kerosene and liquid oxygen. The powerful engine, strong enough to lift the rocket and some payloads into space without the help of boosters, produces 900,000 pounds of thrust. Much of the core's structure is taken by the tanks for the engine. When boosters are called for, the Atlas V can use one to five, depending on the mission.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Fairing and Spacecraft
Part Description: The fairing and spacecraft make up the nose of the Pegasus rocket. The fairing protects the spacecraft during the first part of launch. The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe, or something else entirely depending on the mission’s goals.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: First Stage Structure
Part Description: The first stage makes up much of the body of the Pegasus. It holds the Stage 1 motor, the wing and steering fins. The first stage ignites five seconds after the rocket is dropped from a carrier aircraft and carries the spacecraft to about 207,000 feet.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Second Stage Structure
Part Description: The Stage 2 motor lifts the spacecraft into space, building up its speed throughout launch.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Third Stage Structure
Part Description: The Stage 3 motor propels the spacecraft into its basic orbit up to 400 miles above Earth. The rocket speeds up the spacecraft to about 17,500 miles per hour.

Challenge Yourself (Level 2):

Jump to Payload Descriptions
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Payload Descriptions (Level 2):

Name: IBEX
Description: The Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, is studying the protective envelope around the solar system formed by the rush of particles and magnetic fields from the sun. It quickly found that the envelope is not uniform like scientists expected, but varies in strength and is constantly changing.
Weight: 176 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: October 19, 2008

Name: Kepler
Description: The Kepler spacecraft is a telescope designed to find signs of Earthlike planets orbiting stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Using detectors similar to those in a digital camera, the spacecraft is watching for stars that dim slightly when planets pass in front of them. Kepler has already discovered several planets orbiting other stars and continues to make notable discoveries.
Weight: 2,320 pounds
Location: Orbits around the Sun
Launch Date: March 6, 2009

Name: GOES-O
Description: The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) spacecraft are equipped with sensors and cameras that detail conditions on Earth and help forecasters and climate scientists predict everything from tomorrow's weather to the general conditions 10 years from now. Several GOES satellites work in unison to provide coverage.
Weight: 7,088 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: June 27, 2009

Name: WISE
Description: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, known as WISE, is scanning the universe for the glow of objects and events that are not visible to conventional telescopes. The 16-inch telescope detects infrared light given off by the coolest stars, most luminous galaxies and near-Earth asteroids.
Weight: 1,422 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: December 14, 2009

Name: Juno
Description: The Juno spacecraft will take an advanced set of instruments to Jupiter to find out what chemicals are in its atmosphere. The four-ton probe, powered by solar arrays, will also map the magnetic field of the solar system's largest planet.
Weight: 7,992 pounds
Location: On course to Jupiter
Launch Date: August 8, 2011

Name: GRAIL Description: The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) is composed of two identical spacecraft about the size of washing machines orbiting the moon in a tight pattern to map the moon's invisible gravity field in remarkable detail. Researchers hope the results answer longstanding questions about how the moon formed and offer new clues about the birth of the solar system itself.
Weight: 1,355 pounds
Location: Mission Complete
Launch Date: September 10, 2011

Name: MSL-Curiosity
Description: Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) - Curiosity is the size of a small Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), by far the largest robotic rover NASA has ever sent to another world. It's equipped with a drill, grinder and laser to scout the minerals inside the Gale Crater on Mars.
Weight: 8,463 pounds
Location: On course for Mars Landing
Launch Date: November 26, 2011

Name: NuStar
Description: NuSTAR, short for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, will search for black holes and the remnants of exploded stars. It uses sensors on a 30-foot-long mast to take sharp images of high-energy X-rays in the universe.
Weight: 805 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: June 13, 2012

Rocket Descriptions (Level 2):

Name: Delta II
Description: The Delta II has been NASA's workhorse launcher for two decades. The rocket has sent probes to distant planets, launched observatories and placed numerous satellites into orbit. Its primary strength is reliability, though it is not as powerful as the Delta IV and Atlas V.
Weight: 334,300 - 511,180 pounds
Height: 125.3 - 127 feet
Diameter: 8 feet

Name: Delta IV
Description: NASA calls on the Delta IV to launch heavy weather satellites into an orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. The rocket uses an engine called the RS-68 that is derived from the Space Shuttle Main Engine. Boosters can also be attached to the side for extra power.
Weight: 550,000 - 1,616,800 pounds
Height: 206 - 235 feet
Diameter: 16.4 feet

Name: Atlas V
Description: Atlas V rockets have dispatched NASA spacecraft to the moon, Mars, Jupiter and even to the edge of the solar system during the program's young career. As one of NASA's strongest rockets, the Atlas V employs two engines and up to five large boosters at liftoff.
Weight: 737,400 pounds
Height: 191.2 feet
Diameter: 12.49 feet

Name: Pegasus
Description: The Pegasus is NASA's only rocket to use a wing and launch from the bottom of a modified airliner. The rocket is used to launch small satellites into Earth orbit. From there, the satellites can observe the Earth or look far into the cosmos.
Weight: 51,000 pounds
Height: 58 feet
Diameter: 4.2 feet

Rocket Part Descriptions (Level 2):

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely, depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: First Stage Structure
Part Description: Most of the first stage of the Delta II is made up of two tanks that hold propellants for the engine. The fuel tank holds 10,000 gallons of refined kerosene. The oxidizer tank holds 15,000 gallons of liquid oxygen.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Third Stage Structure
Part Description: The third stage carries a solid-fueled motor and attaches directly to the spacecraft. It gives an extra boost for heavy payloads or to push spacecraft out of Earth orbit.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: First Stage Engine
Part Description: The Delta II's RS-27A engine ignites at T-0 to lift the rocket and spacecraft off the launch pad. It carries the entire rocket to a predetermined altitude then shuts down, allowing the first stage to separate from the second stage. The engine runs on a combination of liquid oxygen and RP-1 fuel.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage during the early portion of launch, when the aerodynamic forces from the atmosphere could affect the rocket. The fairing is jettisoned about two minutes into flight.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Motor and Nozzle
Part Description: Delta II rockets use boosters called GEM-40, short for Graphite-Epoxy Motor with a 40-inch diameter. The number of boosters on a launch depends on how heavy the spacecraft is and which orbit it's going to. Typically, half the boosters are ignited at liftoff and the other half about a minute into the flight.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Second Stage Structure
Part Description: The second stage holds several vital components for a successful launch. It carries the guidance section to steer the first and second stages and has tanks for fuel and oxidizer to power the second stage engine.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely, depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: First Stage Structure
Part Description: The Delta IV's first stage is commonly known as the Common Booster Core. It is powered by a single RS-68 engine modeled on the Space Shuttle Main Engine. The first stage also holds liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants for the engine.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: First Stage Engine/Aeroskirt
Part Description: The RS-68 first stage engine is started at T-4.5 seconds. When it reaches full power of 656,000 pounds at T-0, the hold down bolts are released, and the rocket lifts off the launch pad. Used for the level2- Delta IV configuration, the aeroskirt protects the liquid rocket engine components by deflecting the heat from the solid rocket motors.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Second Stage Structure
Part Description: The second stage connects to the spacecraft on the top and holds the RL 10B-2 rocket engine along with a set of tanks that hold its super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants. The second stage also contains the electronics that steer the rocket during launch.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Booster Motor
Part Description: The Delta IV uses solid-fueled boosters called GEM-60s, short for Graphite-Epoxy Motor with a 60-inch diameter nozzle. A Delta IV can use zero, two or four motors to accomplish the mission.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage during the early portion of launch, when the aerodynamic forces from the atmosphere could affect the rocket. It is typically jettisoned about four minutes into flight, but this time could vary depending on trajectory, launch site, mission objectives or other factors.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely depending on the mission’s goals.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Solid Rocket Booster
Part Description: The Atlas booster stage can accommodate up to five strap-on Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) to increase lift capability. Each SRB is 1.5 meters (5 feet) in diameter, 20.4 meters (67 feet) long and weighs 46,000 kilograms (102,000 pounds). Each provides an additional 300,000 pounds of thrust for 1.5 minutes following liftoff.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Common Core Booster Structure
Part Description: The Common Core Booster Structure is composed of the interstage adapter, booster fuel tank and booster liquid oxygen (LO2) tank. The Interstage Adapter (ISA) provides the structural connection between the Atlas booster stage and the Centaur upper stage. Centaur separates from the ISA about 4.5 minutes after liftoff. At liftoff, the booster fuel tank contains approximately 169,000 pounds of RP-1, the fuel used by the RD-180 booster engine. At liftoff, the booster LO2 tank contains approximately 460,000 pounds of LO2, the oxidizer used by the RD-180 booster engine.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Booster Engine
Part Description: The RD-180 booster engine ignites at liftoff and burns until booster propellants (RP-1 and LO2) are depleted. The RD-180 provides up to 900,000 pounds of thrust. Thrust can be controlled from 40 percent to 100 percent of maximum to tailor the booster trajectory to the needs of the spacecraft.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Centaur Upper Stage
Part Description: The Centaur upper stage is composed of the payload adapter, Centaur forward adapter, Centaur LH2 and LO2 tanks and the Centaur engine.
The payload adapter is a ring-shaped structure that provides the mechanical interface between the spacecraft and the upper stage of the launch vehicle. On Atlas, the adapter typically connects the spacecraft to the Centaur upper stage. The adapter also supports the harnesses and connectors that provide the electrical interface to the spacecraft.
The Centaur forward adapter also carries spacecraft loads from the payload adapter down to the primary tank structure.
The Centaur propellant tanks provide storage for liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LO2), the fuel and oxidizer used to power the upper stage.
The Centaur upper stage is powered by the restartable RL10 engine. Its ability to perform multiple engine burns with coast periods in between allows Centaur to meet a wide variety of orbit requirements.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage from aerodynamic forces and heating during the initial ascent phase of flight. The Atlas 5-meter fairing is jettisoned about 3.5 minutes after liftoff.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload being launched. It is located inside the fairing with the avionics section and the Stage 3 motor.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Fins
Part Description: The fins provide stability to the rocket and steer the launcher during the Stage 1 burn.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Second Stage Structure
Part Description: The Stage 2 motor propels the vehicle to a height of 709,070 feet and a velocity of 17,809 feet per second (about 16 times the speed of sound). These heights and velocities are adjustable based on the payload's weight and orbital insertion needs.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Third Stage Structure
Part Description: The Stage 3 motor propels the vehicle to a height of 400 nautical miles and a velocity of 24,770 feet per second (about 22 times the speed the sound). These heights and velocities are dependent upon the weight and orbit requirements of the payload.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: First Stage Structure
Part Description: The Stage 1 motor propels the vehicle after drop from the Orbital Carrier Aircraft to a height of 207,140 feet and a velocity of 8,269 feet per second at burnout. The attitude of the vehicle is controlled by the Fin Actuator System.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The fairing is separated into two composite halves with one half topped off by a nose cap and the other a separation system. The fairing protects the payload from the flow stream and also allows for the control of air quality, humidity and temperature around the encapsulated payload.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Wing
Part Description: The wing is a delta-shaped wing design that provides lift.

Rocket Scientist (Level 3):

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Payload Descriptions (Level 3):

Name: IBEX
Description: The Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, is orbiting Earth with its eye pointed to the edge of the solar system. Ten billion miles from Earth, the solar wind from the sun collides with the particles and magnetic fields from other parts of the Milky Way. IBEX showed that the area around the solar system is not uniform as scientists predicted, but varies in strength.
Weight: 176 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: October 19, 2008

Name: Kepler
Description: The Kepler spacecraft is searching for planets like Earth that lie outside the solar system. Its sophisticated instruments are focused constantly on a small part of our Milky Way galaxy so the observatory can watch for the telltale signs of a planet crossing in front of a star. Readings from the spacecraft can tell researchers a great deal about any planet that is discovered, including whether it is in an area around the star known as the "habitable zone". Water could be sustainable there. Kepler has already discovered several planets orbiting other stars and continues to make notable discoveries.
Weight: 2,320 pounds
Location: Orbits around the Sun
Launch Date: March 6, 2009

Name: GOES-O
Description: The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) is the latest weather satellite developed by NASA to aid the nation's meteorologists and climate scientists in predicting everything from tomorrow's weather to the general conditions 10 years from now. The spacecraft in the series provide the familiar weather pictures seen on United States television newscasts every day. The satellites are equipped with a formidable array of sensors and instruments.
Weight: 7,088 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: June 27, 2009

Name: WISE
Description: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, known as WISE, is scanning the universe for the glow of objects and events that are not visible to conventional telescopes. The 16-inch telescope detects infrared light given off by the coolest stars, most luminous galaxies and near-Earth asteroids.
Weight: 1,422 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: December 14, 2009

Name: Juno
Description: The Juno spacecraft carries instruments designed to look deep into Jupiter's atmosphere to find out whether current theories about the planet's formation are correct. It is looking for signs of water and will be able to tell more about the planet's composition, temperature and other conditions. The 66-foot diameter spacecraft is the first to an outer planet powered by solar arrays.
Weight: 7,992 pounds
Location: On course to Jupiter
Launch Date: August 8, 2011

Name: GRAIL Description: The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission is set to map the moon's invisible gravity field in unprecedented detail and answer longstanding questions about how the moon formed. Two identical spacecraft, each about the size of a washing machine, are tracking each other as they orbit the moon and measuring the changes to determine how lunar gravity behaves.
Weight: 1,355 pounds
Location: Mission Complete
Launch Date: September 10, 2011

Name: MSL-Curiosity
Description: Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) - Curiosity rover is equipped with a tool suite any geologist would envy so it can effectively study rocks and soil on Mars while researchers on Earth process the results looking for signs of water and other chemicals. As large as a small Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) and carrying a drill, grinder and laser, MSL-Curiosity will scout the Gale Crater to discover Mars' geologic history.
Weight: 8,463 pounds
Location: On course for Mars Landing
Launch Date: November 26, 2011

Name: NuStar
Description: NuSTAR, short for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, will probe the hottest, densest and most energetic objects in space, including black holes and the remnants of exploded stars. It will be the first space telescope to capture sharp images in high-energy X-rays, giving astronomers a new tool for understanding the extreme side of our universe.
Weight: 805 pounds
Location: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: June 13, 2012

Rocket Descriptions (Level 3):

Name: Delta II
Description: The Delta II is the modern version of the Delta rockets that were first launched in the 1960's. Steady technological advances and increases in power by using more powerful boosters produced a rocket of unequaled reliability. It has launched dozens of NASA missions, including one of the agency's great observatories, and three Mars rovers. It is used for level2--sized payloads.
Weight: 334,300 - 511,180 pounds
Height: 125.3 - 127 feet
Diameter: 8 feet

Name: Delta IV
Description: NASA employs the Delta IV to lift the heaviest weather observation satellites into orbits high above Earth. Its RS-68 engine produces 758,000 pounds of thrust. Solid-fueled boosters provide extra power at liftoff.
Weight: 550,000 - 1,616,800 pounds
Height: 206 - 235 feet
Diameter: 16.4 feet

Name: Atlas V
Description: The Atlas V has built up a solid record of achievement in a short time. Using two engines and up to five solid-fueled boosters, it is one of the strongest launchers in NASA's catalog. The Atlas V is called on when NASA needs to lift a heavy spacecraft into orbit or speed probes into deep space.
Weight: 737,400 pounds
Height: 191.2 feet
Diameter: 12.49 feet

Name: Pegasus
Description: A quick look at a Pegasus rocket shows that it is the most unusual launcher NASA employs. Instead of lifting off from the ground, the Pegasus is carried under an aircraft thousands of feet into the air to begin a flight. Its triangle-shaped wing lets the small rocket fly like an airplane as the first stage fires and lifts its payload into the upper atmosphere where the second stage ignites to complete the launch.
Weight: 51,000 pounds
Height: 58 feet
Diameter: 4.2 feet

Rocket Part Descriptions (Level 3):

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Engine Section
Part Description: The main engine and two LR101-NA-11 vernier engines are located in the first stage engine section. The LR101-NA-11 vernier engines are small rocket motors that provide steering capabilities. This section also provides the aft attachments for the strap-on solid propellant motors.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Payload Attach Fitting
Part Description: The payload attach fitting is a ring that connects the spacecraft to the third stage. This component is used in a three-stage configuration. In the two-stage configuration, the fitting connects the spacecraft to the second stage.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Second Stage Engine
Part Description: The second stage uses the restartable AJ10-118K engine, which uses the storable hypergolic propellants nitrogen tetroxide and Aerozine-50.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: First Stage LO2 Tank
Part Description: This tank contains 15,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, which combines with RP-1 fuel to power the main engine.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: First Stage Engine
Part Description: Also called the main engine, the RS-27A begins operation at T-0 (launch). Along with the solid rocket motors, it carries the entire rocket to a predetermined altitude. It then shuts down, allowing the first stage to separate from the second stage. The engine runs on a combination of liquid oxygen and RP-1 fuel.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Spin Table
Part Description: Attached to the top of the second stage, the spin table supports, rotates and stabilizes the spacecraft and third stage before they spin up and separate from the second stage.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely, depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Second Stage Guidance
Part Description: The forward section of the second stage houses avionics equipment which provides guidance sequencing and stabilization signals for both the first and second stage.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Graphite Epoxy Motor
Part Description: The Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM-40) is a strap-on booster system. The motors can be flown in different configurations depending on the payload requirements. For example, the Delta vehicle may require three, four, or nine strap-on motors.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Interstage
Part Description: The interstage connects the first and second stages.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage during the early portion of launch, when the aerodynamic forces from the atmosphere could affect the rocket. The fairing is jettisoned about two minutes into flight.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: First Stage Fuel Tank
Part Description: This tank contains 10,000 gallons of RP-1 fuel, which combines with liquid oxygen to power the main engine.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Third Stage Rocket Motor
Part Description: Following burnout and separation of the boosters and the rocket's liquid second stage, the Star-48B third stage rocket motor propels the spacecraft into its initial orbit.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Extended Air-Lit Nozzle
Part Description: These are the nozzles on the GEM-40 strap-on solid rocket boosters.

Rocket Name: Delta II
Part Name: Second Stage Fuel and Oxidizer Tank
Part Description: This unit encloses both the fuel tank, which contains Aerozine-50, and the oxidizer tank, which contains nitrogen tetroxide. These propellants combine to power the second stage engine.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Payload Attach Fitting/Dispenser
Part Description: The payload attach fitting is a conical component that connects the spacecraft to the second stage. The top portion, which attaches to the spacecraft, varies in configuration depending on the spacecraft's requirements. A dispenser deploys spacecraft when two or more spacecraft are launched on one rocket.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Second Stage LO2 Tank
Part Description: This tank contains liquid oxygen (-297 degrees F), which combines with fuel to power the second stage engine.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage during the early portion of launch, when the aerodynamic forces from the atmosphere could affect the rocket. It is typically jettisoned about four minutes into flight, but this time could vary depending on trajectory, launch site, mission objectives or other factors.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: First Stage Engine (RS-68)
Part Description: Also called the main engine, the RS-68 is started at T-4.5 seconds. When it reaches full power of 656,000 pounds at T-0, the hold down bolts are released, and the rocket lifts off the launch pad. The RS-68 propels the entire rocket to a predetermined altitude. It then shuts down, and the first stage separates from the second stage. The engine runs on a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Second Stage Equipment Shelf
Part Description: The equipment shelf holds the electronics and attitude control system, including the computer used to fly the rocket.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Graphite-Epoxy Motor (GEM-60)
Part Description: The GEM-60 is a solid-fueled rocket motor. The motors can be flown in different configurations depending on the payload requirements. For example, the Delta IV vehicle may require zero, two or four motors.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Common Booster Core
Part Description: The Delta IV Common Booster Core is used for all Delta IV configurations, although the solid rocket motor or strap-on Common Booster Core attachment fixtures vary depending on which configuration is used.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Second Stage LH2 Tank
Part Description: This tank contains liquid hydrogen (-423 degrees F), a fuel that combines with an oxidizer to power the second stage engine.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Aeroskirt
Part Description: Used for the level2- Delta IV configuration, the aeroskirt protects the liquid rocket engine components by deflecting the heat from the solid rocket motors.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Interstage
Part Description: Constructed of a composite material, the interstage protects the second stage engine and liquid oxygen tank during first stage ascent. It attaches to the Common Booster Core and separates from the second stage along with the first stage.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely, depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: LO2 Tank
Part Description: This tank contains 40,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, which combines with liquid hydrogen fuel to power the first stage engine.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Second Stage Engine
Part Description: The Delta IV second stage uses the RL 10B-2 liquid rocket engine, which relies on liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as its cryogenic propellants. The second stage engine has an extendable nozzle that is stowed during launch and extends after the first and second stage separate. It is deployed to provide greater thrust in the upper atmosphere.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Centerbody
Part Description: The centerbody structure spans the area between the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: LH2 Tank
Part Description: This tank contains 110,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen fuel, which combines with liquid oxygen to power the first stage engine.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: Engine Section
Part Description: The first stage engine section holds the RS-68 liquid rocket engine. This section also provides the aft attachments for the solid propellant motors, if used.

Rocket Name: Delta IV
Part Name: LO2 Feedline
Part Description: During propellant-loading operations, liquid oxygen flows from the bottom of the Common Booster Core through the feedline to the liquid oxygen tank. For added safety, the feedline is located on the exterior of the vehicle.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Payload Adapter
Part Description: The payload adapter is a ring-shaped structure that provides the mechanical interface between the spacecraft and the upper stage of the launch vehicle. On Atlas, the adapter typically connects the spacecraft to the Centaur upper stage. The adapter also supports the harnesses and connectors that provide the electrical interface to the spacecraft.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Booster Engine (RD-180)
Part Description: The RD-180 booster engine ignites at liftoff and burns until booster propellants (RP-1 and LO2) are depleted. The RD-180 provides up to 900,000 pounds of thrust. Thrust can be controlled from 40 percent to 100 percent of maximum to tailor the booster trajectory to the needs of the spacecraft.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Solid Rocket Booster
Part Description: The Atlas booster stage can accommodate up to five strap-on Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) to increase lift capability. Each SRB is 1.5 meters (5 feet) in diameter, 20.4 meters (67 feet) long and weighs 46,000 kilograms (102,000 pounds). Each provides an additional 300,000 pounds of thrust for 1.5 minutes following liftoff.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Centaur LH2 and LO2 Tanks
Part Description: The Centaur propellant tanks provide storage for liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LO2), the fuel and oxidizer used to power the upper stage.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Centaur Engine (RL10A-4-2)
Part Description: The Centaur upper stage is powered by the restartable RL10 engine. Its ability to perform multiple engine burns with coast periods in between allows Centaur to meet a wide variety of orbit requirements.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The payload fairing protects the spacecraft and upper stage from aerodynamic forces and heating during the initial ascent phase of flight. The Atlas 5-meter fairing is jettisoned about 3.5 minutes after liftoff.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Interstage Adapter
Part Description: The Interstage Adapter (ISA) provides the structural connection between the Atlas booster stage and the Centaur upper stage. Centaur separates from the ISA about 4.5 minutes after liftoff.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload that will carry out the mission. A spacecraft could be an Earth-observing satellite, an interplanetary probe or something else entirely depending on the mission's goals.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Booster Fuel Tank
Part Description: At liftoff, this tank contains approximately 169,000 pounds of RP-1, the fuel used by the RD-180 booster engine.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Centaur Forward Adapter
Part Description: The forward section of the Centaur upper stage provides a platform for avionics guiding and controling both upper and booster stages during flight. The forward adapter carries spacecraft loads from the payload adapter to the primary tank structure.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Aft Transition Structure/Heat Shield
Part Description: The Aft Transition Structure (ATS) and heat shield form a compartment that houses the RD-180 booster engine and control systems. External fittings on the ATS also provide mounting points for solid rocket boosters (SRBs) when required.

Rocket Name: Atlas V
Part Name: Booster LO2 Tank
Part Description: At liftoff, this tank contains approximately 460,000 pounds of liquid oxygen (LO2), the oxidizer used by the RD-180 booster engine.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Stage 1 Motor
Part Description: The Stage 1 motor propels the vehicle after drop from the Orbital Carrier Aircraft to a height of 207,140 feet and a velocity of 8,269 feet per second at burnout. The attitude of the vehicle is controlled by the Fin Actuator System.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Spacecraft
Part Description: The spacecraft is the NASA payload being launched. It is located inside the fairing with the avionics section and the Stage 3 motor.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Fins
Part Description: The fins provide attitude control during the Stage 1 burn.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: HAPS
Part Description: After burnout and separation from the Stage 3 motor, the Hydrazine Auxiliary Propulsion System (HAPS) hydrazine thrusters provide additional velocity, improved performance and precise orbit injection. When used, the HAPS is located inside the avionics section.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Stage 2 Motor
Part Description: The Stage 2 motor propels the vehicle to a height of 709,070 feet and a velocity of 17,809 feet per second (about 16 times the speed of sound). These heights and velocities are adjustable based on the payload's weight and orbital insertion needs.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Fairing
Part Description: The fairing is separated into two composite halves with one half topped off by a nose cap and the other a separation system. The fairing protects the payload from the flow stream and also allows for the control of air quality, humidity and temperature around the encapsulated payload.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Interstage
Part Description: The interstage serves as a connector between stages 1 and 2 and provides an area for the nozzles and interstage electronics and components.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Avionics Section
Part Description: The avionics section contains the flight computer, inertial navigation system, avionics batteries, telemetry system and control electronics. This includes the gaseous nitrogen reaction control system, which helps control the vehicle attitude, especially right before payload separation.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Wing
Part Description: The wing is a delta-shaped wing design that provides lift during the Stage 1 burn.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Stage 3 Motor
Part Description: The Stage 3 motor propels the vehicle to a height of 400 nautical miles and a velocity of 24,770 feet per second (about 22 times the speed the sound). These heights and velocities are dependent upon the weight and orbit requirements of the payload.

Rocket Name: Pegasus
Part Name: Aft Skirt
Part Description: The aft skirt protects the Stage 1 nozzle from aeroheating and provides the structural attachment for the Fin Actuator System.

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