CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., Oct. 5, 1997 - A Lockheed Martin Astronautics Atlas IIAS rocket successfully launched the EchoStar III commercial communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit this afternoon from Complex 36, Pad B, at Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS), FL. Liftoff occurred right on time at 5:01 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It was the sixth successful Atlas launch of 1997 from CCAS and the thirty-third consecutive successful flight for Atlas/Centaur.
The Atlas IIAS, designated AC-135 for the EchoStar III mission, is the most powerful of the Atlas configurations presently launching payloads for commercial, military and government customers. Booster performance is increased through the use of four strap-on solid rocket boosters. The Atlas II series, including the II, IIA and IIAS, has had 100 percent operational success since the introduction of each launch vehicle.
Once in final orbit at 61.5 degrees West longitude, EchoStar III will join the EchoStar I and II satellites in expanding the service of the company's DISH NetworkTM satellite system, which provides television programming to its customers throughout the U.S. EchoStar III is the third satellite built by Lockheed Martin for EchoStar Corporation and the first A2100 to be completed at its new Commercial Satellite Center in Sunnyvale, CA.
Lockheed Martin has commitments for 27 Atlas launches through the 1990s, including 19 commercial and 8 Air Force missions. Three more missions remain in the 1997 manifest.
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 Boeing North American located in Canoga Park, CA, Atlas MA-5A engines; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, FL, Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, inertial navigation unit; and Thiokol Corp. of Ogden, UT, Castor IVA solid rocket boosters.
Astronautics is one of the operating units of the corporation's Space and Strategic Missiles Sector headquartered in Bethesda, MD. Launch operations are provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Complex 36. Customer interface and launch vehicle mission management are provided by International Launch Services, headquartered in San Diego, CA. ILS was formed in 1995 to jointly market commercial launch services on Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch vehicles.