Launch Vehicles

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The Rockets Behind the Missions
Lunar Prospector launchAll Expendable Launch Vehicles use the same basic technology to get into space: two or more rocket-powered stages, which are discarded when their engine burns are complete. So how does NASA decide which vehicle to use? That's determined by the payload's weight, orbital destination and purpose. Each launch vehicle has a different set of specialties.

Image to left: NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft streaks toward the moon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Jan. 6, 1998. Credit: NASA

The Delta family of rockets has launched a variety of scientific payloads that have captured our imagination and expanded knowledge of our Solar System and surrounding universe.
› Delta II Countdown 101
› About the Delta II
› Delta IV Countdown 101
› About the Delta IV

Launched from the underbelly of a converted L-1011 aircraft, the Pegasus vehicle can be launched from almost any location in the world.
› Pegasus Countdown 101
› About the Pegasus

NASA relied on Atlas vehicles for several TDRS, GOES and NOAA launches, among others.
› Atlas V Countdown 101
› About the Atlas V

NASA's ACRIMSAT spacecraft was boosted into space aboard a Taurus launch vehicle.
› Taurus XL Countdown 101
› About the Taurus