Air & Space Museum

Centaur Upper Stage

Centaur Upper Stage

In more than 260 launches, Centaurs have launched communication satellites, scientific observatories, weather satellites, and military reconnaissance satellites. The Centaur upper stage has also played a key role in our exploration of the solar system for more than half a century. Centaur’s very first payloads were Surveyor Moon landers that scouted landing sites for the Apollo Moon landings in the 1960s. Centaurs launched Mariner probes to Mercury, Venus, and Mars, Viking orbiters and landers to Mars, and the amazing Pioneer and Voyager probes to the outer solar system. Later missions have delivered rovers to Mars and sent the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto and beyond. Five Centaur payloads are headed out of our solar system into the vast unexplored space between star systems.