CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., Dec. 17, 1996 - A Lockheed Martin Astronautics Atlas IIA rocket successfully launched the Inmarsat III F3 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit this evening from Complex 36, Pad A. It was the seventh successful Atlas launch of 1996 from Cape Canaveral Air Station and the 27th consecutive successful flight.
The Atlas IIA, designated AC-129 for the Inmarsat III F3 mission, is one of four variants in the Atlas family presently launching satellites for domestic and international customers. Atlas IIA is capable of placing satellites in the 6,200 to 6,700 lb weight class into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The Atlas II series, including the II, IIA, and IIAS, has achieved 100 percent operational success since the introduction of each launch vehicle.
Inmarsat III F3 will be operated by Inmarsat, the 79-nation/signatory international consortium, which is a leading provider of satellite-based communication and broadcast services to maritime and mobile communications users worldwide. Inmarsat III F3 was built by Lockheed Martin Astro-Space of the United States. Communications payload elements were manufactured by Matra Marconi Space.
Lockheed Martin has commitments for 27 Atlas launches through the 1990s. 21 commercial and 6 Air Force missions. AC-129 was the final Atlas launch scheduled for 1996.
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-5A 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 five operating elements of Lockheed Martin 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 launch services on Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch vehicles.