CAPE CANAVERAL Air Force Station, Fla., Dec. 5, 2000 - An Atlas IIAS rocket successfully launched a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spacecraft here this evening from Complex 36, Pad A.
Liftoff occurred at 9:47 p.m. EST, followed by successful spacecraft separation from the launch vehicle nearly half an hour later. The launch was conducted by a combined team of International Launch Services (ILS), the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin.
The Atlas family thus has achieved 54 consecutive successful flights and the Atlas II series has a 100% mission success rate. This is the eighth and final Atlas launch planned by ILS at the Cape this year, and the 14th mission overall for ILS in 2000. ILS, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services and Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International, provides launch services to customers worldwide on both the American Atlas and the Russian Proton rockets.
"We're very excited to have achieved a record of 14 consecutive successful launches for Proton and Atlas since the beginning of the year," said Dr. Mark Albrecht, ILS president. "This year's was the busiest manifest since ILS was created in 1995, and we're proud of our 100% success record.
"This has been an excellent year for ILS in terms of new business, as well," Albrecht continued. "We received more than $1 billion in additional orders, including 17 firm launches with 17 options for a mix of the full complement of ILS launch products including Proton, Proton M, Atlas IIAS, Atlas III and Atlas V. Our backlog stands at more than $3 billion."
The spacecraft was designed and built by the NRO, which will operate the satellite once in orbit. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company provides the Atlas vehicles. Its direct customer for this launch is the Air Force under the Medium Launch Vehicle program.
The NRO designated this as its "Great Bear" Mission, and the fairing of the Atlas rocket carried a drawing of a bear designed by a Virginia student, Samantha Wingo. The mission commemorates the late Daniel M. Potter, who worked at the NRO as an engineer and who was an advocate and supporter of the NRO's Cub Run Partners in Education Program. The Ursa Major constellation, the Great Bear, was selected as the design theme because it complemented Cub Run's mascot, the bear cub.
The rocket was designated AC-157 for this mission. The Atlas and its Centaur upper stage were built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company-Astronautics Operations at facilities in Denver, Colo.; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif. Major suppliers to the Atlas program include Rocketdyne, a division of Boeing North American in Canoga Park, Calif., for the Atlas MA-5A engines; Pratt & Whitney, West Palm Beach, Fla., for the Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; and Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, Fla., inertial navigation unit.
Astronautics is an operating unit of the Lockheed Martin's Space Systems Company, headquartered in Denver. Launch operations are provided by Astronautics Operations at Cape Canaveral. Customer interface and launch vehicle mission management are provided by ILS, headquartered in McLean, Va. The company currently offers the broadest range of launcher products in the world along with the highest reliability in the industry.