CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, FL, January 29, 1998 - A Lockheed Martin Astronautics Atlas IIA rocket successfully launched a National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft this afternoon from Complex 36, Pad A, at Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS), Florida. Liftoff occurred at 1:37 p.m. EST.
The spacecraft was designed and built by the NRO, which will operate the satellite once in orbit. Lockheed Martin's direct customer for this launch is the U.S. Air Force under the Medium Launch Vehicle II (MLV II) program. At nine flights, the series of launches for the U.S. Air Force's MLV II program is one of the largest single-user launch service programs for Lockheed Martin's Atlas. Six prior DSCS III flights were also successful, starting with the first in February 1992. The Air Force has also signed up for four launches on Atlas IIAS starting in late 1999.
The Atlas IIA, designated AC-109 for this mission, is capable of lifting payloads up to 6,760 lbs to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The Atlas II series, including the II, IIA and IIAS, has had 100 percent operational success since the introduction of each launch vehicle. AC-109 was the first Atlas launch of 1998 and 36th consecutive successful flight for Atlas overall.
Lockheed Martin has commitments for 25 Atlas launches through the 1990s, including 19 commercial and 6 Air Force missions. Nine launches are forecast for 1998, eight from CCAS and one from Vandenberg AFB, CA.
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; and Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, inertial navigation unit.
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.