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The Genesis of Centaur In 1957, almost one year before Congress created NASA, the Air Force studied an exhaustive proposal from General Dynamics/Astronautics Corp. to develop a new space booster that could give the U.S., in the shortest possible time, a means of orbiting heavy payloads. That vehicle was to become Centaur, a high-energy second stage with a new propulsion system using liquid hydrogen. Mixed with liquid oxygen, this new fuel afforded the promise of boosting payloads as great as 8,500 pounds.