CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., March 13, 2004 - An International Launch Services (ILS) Atlas III rocket blasted off early this morning, successfully orbiting the MBSAT satellite for Space Systems/Loral (SS/L). This was the 70th consecutive successful flight of an Atlas vehicle, and the second launch of the year conducted by ILS, a Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) joint venture.
Liftoff was at 12:40 a.m. EST, and the SS/L 1300 model satellite separated from the rocket 29 minutes later. SS/L built the satellite and contracted with ILS to deliver it in orbit for Mobile Broadcasting Corp (MBCO) of Japan and SK Telecom of Korea. The state-of-the-art satellite will deliver digital multimedia information services such as CD-quality audio, MPEG-4 video and data to mobile users throughout Japan and Korea.
"This is a landmark launch for the Atlas team," said ILS President Mark Albrecht. "The Atlas rocket has a perfect record over more than a decade, but we'll never get complacent. We still take it one launch at a time, and that discipline and dedication is what has given us the world's most reliable vehicle."
This was the fifth flight for the Atlas III vehicle, is one of three Atlas models currently being flown. It is a transitional vehicle between the Atlas II series that has been flying since 1991, and the powerful Atlas V, which made its debut successfully in 2002. The Atlas II, III and V families have achieved 100 percent success since mid-1993.
Albrecht noted that this is the 21st SS/L-built satellite launched by ILS vehicles, which include not only the Atlas family but also the Russian-built Proton rocket. ILS is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin, which builds the Atlas rocket, and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which builds the Proton vehicles. ILS, based in McLean, Va., markets and manages all missions for Atlas and commercial missions on Proton. ILS offers the broadest range of launch services in the world along with products with the highest reliability in the industry.