CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., March 8, 2002 -- An Atlas IIA rocket placed a NASA communications satellite into orbit today, marking the 60th consecutive successful mission for the popular launch vehicle.
"This was another flawless flight for Atlas, our second in two weeks," said Mark Albrecht, president of International Launch Services (ILS). ILS manages the missions on the Atlas vehicles, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT). "We're proud of our record, which is 100 percent for the Atlas II and III families. We also have provided 100 percent success for NASA missions on Atlas. This demonstrates the dedication of the Atlas team to Mission Success," Albrecht said.
The 15-story rocket lifted off at 5:59 p.m. EST (2259 GMT) from Cape Canaveral's Pad 36A, carrying the second in a series of next-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, called TDRS-I ("eye"), for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Separation of the spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit occurred 30 minutes later. This was ILS' and Atlas' second mission of 2002; an Atlas III was successfully launched Feb. 21.
The Atlas IIA, designated AC-143 for the TDRS-I mission, is one of four Atlas family configurations scheduled to launch satellites this year for government and commercial customers worldwide. The others are Atlas IIAS, Atlas III and Atlas V, which is scheduled for its inaugural launch in a few months.
Another NASA satellite, TDRS-J, is due to be launched on an Atlas IIA this fall. This series of TDRS spacecraft was built by Boeing Satellite Systems of El Segundo, Calif., based on its Boeing 601 bus. Previous TDRS series were launched on the space shuttle.
ILS offers the broadest range of launch services in the world along with the highest reliability in the industry. ILS, based in McLean, Va., is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and two Russian companies, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia.
ILS markets and manages the missions for the Atlas and the Russian Proton launch vehicles. ILS' 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. The three-stage Proton and its Breeze M upper stage are assembled by Khrunichev at its plant near Moscow. The alternative Block DM upper stage is built by Energia, also near Moscow.