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Atlas: The Ultimate Weapon by Those Who Built It (Apogee Books Space Series) [Paperback]

Chuck Walker
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 2005 1894959183 978-1894959186
The insider's story of the Atlas rocket, America's first intercontinental ballistic missile, is offered in this careful history of the rocket in its roles as both a civilian and a military vehicle. Written by the manager of program control for the Atlas project, this tell-all includes intimate details of the rocket, including its origins as the MX-774 prototype missile, the difficult development and deployment of its nuclear payload, the activation and deactivation of the Atlas rocket as part of the Strategic Air Command squadrons, and a host of previously unpublished pictures. The missile's development as a civilian rocket is also documented, including details on its role in the Project Mercury manned spaceflights and its use today as the high-performance Centaur and Agena rocket stages used for satellite and space probe launches.
Appendixes of the Atlas flight history, a detailed key of program events and milestones, and biographies of prominent Atlas managers are also included.

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About the Author

Chuck Walker is the former manager of program control for the Atlas program. He lives in Loveland, Colorado.

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Product Details

  • Series: Apogee Books Space Series
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc. (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1894959183
  • ISBN-13: 978-1894959186
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,590,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great History September 20, 2005
"Atlas- The Ultimate Weapon"

Chuck Walker and Joel Powell have written one of the best books to date about the history and uses of the first American Intercontinental Ballistic Missile- the Atlas.

It details how the Vultee Corporation started building the MX-774 rocket nearly 60 years ago and how it led to the Convair Atlas ICBM and became todays Lockeed Martin Atlas V commercial launcher.

For the first time the reader gets to see behind the classifed world that was Atlas. The test stands, the test firings and the Silos, and what went on in designing and building them.

The book tells of the innovations of the stage-and -a -half rocket, whose skin was so thin that it had to be inflated to keep its shape! Some of the stories include what happened during the Cuban missile crisis when avery Atlas that could be fueled was ready to be hurled at the Soviet Union.

The Atlas story was first told in the in the early 1960s' and I find that this book jumps around in the retelling of these stories. The major problem with this book is that it is based on interviews and does not ask specific questions, like -what happened during a failure like Figure 12-6 illistrates, or how and why did they replace the sustainer engine for John Glenn's Atlas 109-D while it stood vertically on the launch pad? I still want to hear the answer to that one! There is also very little about Atlas and its uses in Project Gemini- the second American manned space project There might be a photo of an unusual Atlas configuration on one page, but the simplist of discriptions making you want to know more about that specific launch!

But these little stories are also the books major strength.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but... October 16, 2005
Pretty good book. Some of the stories are great - my favorites are from test failures. Some of the safety procuedures were very 'seat of the pants', as should be expected when the rules are being written as you go. Gave me a new appreciation of the bravery of the engineers and support staff involved.

I still think the book is missing something. Not sure if it is context or some of the technical depth. I found Titan II: A History of a Cold War Missile Program to be a better history of US cold war missile development than this book. Dry, but packed full of information.

What I really want is a history of Polaris which is not on its bureacratic success or a 1960s fan book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Atlas Missile July 10, 2006
I was a young engineer right out of college in 1956 when I went to work at Convair in San Diego. I knew most of the people and the history of the Atlas missile. I was in the antenna design group under George Tweed....a great supervisor who latter became Chief Engineer. The work ethic was great in those days. We were working on the ICBM that had national priority. I was with Convair until 1962. This book brought back many wonderful memories of the Atlas missile program and people that worked on it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome insider's view! February 18, 2007
This book is definitely worth the money. I got it recently and pretty much devoured it right away. Note that it is a moderated book, so there are many voices present in many chapters. In addition to the Atlas `steel balloon' flight vehicle design and construction, it also has a lot of information about the impressive civil engineering effort that went into the construction of the launch sites. It also has a detailed write up of the December 1958 Project SCORE, achieving single stage to orbit decades before it became a NASA mantra. To the authors of the book: THANK YOU for sharing all the early anecdotes of the Atlas program in this book, I enjoyed it immensely.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chronology of Atlas Missle Launches June 15, 2006
I really enjoyed the way this book listed all of the Atlas launches, it allowed to go back a review the successes and failure of the program as I remembered them. It also has a great collection of photographs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun-to-read history of a rocketship April 19, 2009
The Atlas missile and space launch vehicle program is one of the most important programs in space history, and it deserves a good write-up. I expected to find a lot of dry text about a defense department program, but instead it was a page-turner, as the author includes a lot of details about some of the personalities involved and the life they led at the various test and manufacturing sites in places like the California desert or the Florida coastline. The history of Atlas is part of the history of American life in the 1950s and 60s.

This is also a great look at government program managment and system engineering in the 1950s. Much of that hasn't changed much today in principle, but the modern engineer or manager might be surprised to see the immense size and scope of such a project so long ago. Equally impressive is the technical competence of the engineers involved. In an era when nobody had ever built an ICBM or launched a rocket into orbit yet, these guys knew exactly what they were doing and the results speak for themselves in the outstanding success rate of the Atlas throughout its career.

The book does have some weaknesses.

There are some ommissions, which is to be expected in such a short history book spanning 50 years. Little attention is paid to the "new" Atlas V launch vehicle, since design-wise it's not a "real" Atlas anymore, lacking a balloon tank fuselage and dispensing with the booster-sustainer engine combo. In any case, Atlas V was new and unproven when this book was published.

The book also suffers from the somewhat amatuerish editing methods common to many Apogee Books products.
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