CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., April 30, 1996 - A Lockheed Martin Atlas I rocket, designated AC-78, successfully launched the Satellite per Astronomia a raggi X (SAX) spacecraft early this morning from Complex 36B at Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL. It was the 23rd consecutive successful Atlas launch from Cape Canaveral and the 100th Atlas/Centaur mission.
SAX (X-ray Astronomy Satellite) was developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in cooperation with the Dutch Space Agency (NIVR) to investigate celestial X-ray sources from inside and outside our galaxy. The satellite was built by Alenia Spazio.
"It is fitting that the 100th Centaur upper stage flying in combination with Atlas has launched a unique satellite like SAX, which is designed to observe the farthest reaches of our galaxy," said Michael R. Wash, president-Atlas Division, ILS International Launch Services. "Lockheed Martin and ILS are proud to participate in this important scientific project with our European customers."
The Atlas I, designated AC-78 for the SAX mission, is one of four variants in the Atlas family presently launching satellites for domestic and international customers. The Atlas family is capable of launching satellites weighing from 5,000 to 8,150 pounds. One more Atlas I remains to be launched following AC- 78 before this configuration is phased out. The three variants in the Atlas II family have a backlog of 23 launch commitments through the year 2000. The newest configuration, Atlas IIAR, is scheduled for first launch in late 1998.
Atlas and the Centaur upper stage are built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at facilities in Denver, CO; Harlingen, TX; and San Diego, CA. Major suppliers to the Atlas program include Rocketdyne, a division of Rockwell International, located in Canoga Park, CA, Atlas MA-5 engines; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, FL, Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; and Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, inertial navigation unit.
Astronautics is one of four operating elements of the corporation's Space and Strategic Missiles Sector headquartered in Bethesda, MD. Launch services are provided by International Launch Services, San Diego, CA, formed in 1995 to jointly market Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch vehicles.