CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Oct. 11, 2001 - An Atlas IIAS rocket lifted off late last night, successfully carrying a national security payload into orbit.
The mission was provided for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) by International Launch Services (ILS), using a Lockheed Martin-built launch vehicle. Liftoff was at 10:32 p.m. EDT (2:32 GMT) from Cape Canaveral's Pad 36B, with payload separation into transfer orbit 29 minutes later.
"ILS is honored to have a role in enhancing our nation's security by launching this NRO payload," said ILS President Mark Albrecht. "Every one of these missions is vitally important for national defense."
Albrecht noted that this is the second national security payload for Atlas in a month's time, and the third in less than a year. ILS successfully launched an NRO payload Sept. 8 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and last Dec. 5 from Cape Canaveral. "The Altas family has a proud heritage in launching government payloads for more than 40 years. We're continuing that partnership into the 21st century with our Atlas II, III and V vehicles," he said.
Last night's launch vehicle, the Atlas IIAS, can lift 8,200 pounds to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The upgraded Atlas III can lift up to 9,920 pounds, and the next-generation Atlas V is available in a range of configurations to lift payloads up to 19,000 pounds.
ILS is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin, which builds the Atlas vehicles, and Russian companies Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia, which build the Proton vehicles. ILS provides launch services to customers worldwide, including technical, management and marketing expertise. The company is headquartered in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.
The Atlas V family is designed both for ILS commercial missions and to meet the U.S. Air Force requirements for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The first vehicle in the Atlas V series, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, is being prepared at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for its inaugural flight next May.
The Atlas V vehicle incorporates state-of-the-art designs, materials and processes, including the throttleable, Russian-built RD-180 engine, the first variable-thrust main engine to power a U.S. expendable launch vehicle.
The RD-180, and most of the other technologies for Atlas V, were flight-proven last year, during ILS' successful initial launch of the Atlas III rocket.
The Atlas rockets and their Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company-Astronautics Operations at facilities in Denver, Colo.; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif. ILS' three-stage Proton and the available Breeze M upper stage are produced by Khrunichev at its factory near Moscow. The available Block DM fourth stage is built by Energia, also near Moscow.