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First Atlas Centaur Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base

 

VANDENBERG AFB, CA, December 18, 1999 - Lockheed Martin and ILS successfully launched the EOS Terra remote sensing satellite into sun-synchronous low earth orbit (LEO) this morning for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The satellite, which is a major component of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise and the first in a series of EOS satellites, was launched on an Atlas IIAS at 10:57:39 a.m. USA PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

"We are very excited to be involved with the first launch of an Atlas Centaur from our West Coast launch facility," said Dr. Mark J. Albrecht, President of ILS. "From the state-of-the-art modifications that were made to the launch pad to accommodate the Atlas IIAS, to the size and applications of the spacecraft, the Terra mission is indeed a noteworthy achievement."

For ILS, the San Diego, CA, USA-based launch services provider, the Terra mission marks its fifth launch on Atlas this year, and the first launch from the new launch facilities at Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg AFB. It is also the 46th consecutive successful Atlas mission.

Weighing 10,506 pounds (4,645 kg), Terra is the largest satellite ever launched on Atlas by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, the Denver, CO, USA-based manufacturer of the Atlas rocket and the Centaur upper stage. To accommodate the satellite weight, structural modifications were made to the front of the Centaur, including a new type of payload adapter. In addition, the vehicle's 14-foot (4.3 m) diameter payload fairing was stretched 3-feet (.91 m) in length.

The Terra mission involves a significant investment from both NASA and the U.S. Government. At $1.3 billion, not including launch services, the spacecraft is the most expensive satellite ever launched on Atlas. The launch of the first Atlas IIAS from Vandenberg AFB also required major modifications to the former Atlas H launch pad - to the tune of $330 million. Work on the new launch vehicle pad, which was rebuilt from the ground up, began in 1992, and construction was completed in 1996.

For NASA, and for scientists around the world, Terra is the flagship in a new series of satellites that will provide key contributions to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The spacecraft carries five state-of-the-art instruments, featuring measurement and accuracy capabilities never flown before. Taking a global approach to data collection, Terra will enable scientists to study the interaction among the Earth's four spheres - the oceans, lands, atmosphere and biosphere.

For Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space (LMMS), the Sunnyvale, CA, USA-based satellite manufacturer, the mission represents one of the most complex satellite projects ever attempted. Terra will provide massive amounts of data to the EOS ground system, which will receive, process, distribute and archive information from Terra, and from future EOS satellites. The satellite is also the last remote-sensing satellite to be built at the company's manufacturing facility in Valley Forge, PA, USA.

Headquartered in San Diego, CA, USA, International Launch Services (ILS) is a joint venture stock company established in 1995 to jointly market the Russian-built Proton and the Lockheed Martin Astronautics-built Atlas to the worldwide satellite launch market. The company currently offers the broadest range of launcher products in the world -- including Angara, the next generation Russian rocket -- along with the highest reliability in the industry. ILS is owned by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services (LMCLS) and the Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International (LKEI) joint venture.

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