Centaur upper-stage rocket for shuttle



A popular topic for discussion among those still hoping that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) space shuttle will be able to launch large scientific space probes from earth orbit is the matter of the so-called US, or upper-stage, rocket vehicle. Programs slated for the middle of the decade that include sending probes deep into space will not be possible without a very powerful upper-stage rocket, and thus there was a surge of optimism among space scientists and NASA officials this past September when Congress voted not to eliminate the big Centaur rocket from space shuttle's portion of the NASA 1983 fiscal year budget.

Support for construction of the Centaur followed the Air Force's requirement for greater lifting power because of the shielding required to prevent contamination of certain classified payloads (Science, 1 October 1982). The large rocket will also be needed to place massive communications satellites into geosynchronous earth orbit.