The Atlas family of rockets debuted in 1957 with the SM-65 as an ICBM, before evolving into a vehicle to launch satellite payloads into orbit. In 1958, an Atlas booster would launch the first communications satellite, SCORE, which would broadcast President Eisenhower’s Christmas message calling for peace and goodwill around the world. As well, SCORE also signaled the United States ability to launch payloads into orbit, peaceful or otherwise, a message to a the Soviet Union after their successful launches of Sputniks 1 and 2.
In the early 1960s, the Atlas booster, with it’s heavier lift capability, would be during NASA’s Project Mercury used to place astronauts into orbit. A task the previously used Mercury-Redstone was not capable of.
After several iterations and evolutions, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle known as the Atlas V would go on to become one of the United States most successful expendable launch vehicles, used in everything from civilian payloads and planetary exploration probes to launching classified government and military satellites. The Atlas V is expected to continue service until replaced by the proposed Vulcan series in 2019.