CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., Jan. 20, 2000 - An Atlas rocket lit up the Florida sky tonight with the successful launch of the Defense Satellite Communications System III (DSCS III) satellite for the U.S. Air Force. Liftoff occurred at 8:03 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, followed by successful spacecraft separation from the launch vehicle just under a half hour later. The launch was conducted by a combined team of Lockheed Martin, the United States Air Force and International Launch Services (ILS).
"The partnership between Atlas and the U.S. Air Force reaches back into the earliest days of the space program," said Dr. Mark J. Albrecht, ILS President. "It is fitting that we should begin the new year with a successful Atlas launch performed by the Lockheed Martin and USAF team, which has been so instrumental in Atlas successes over the years."
With tonight's AC-138/DSCS B8 launch, Atlas II and IIA vehicles have achieved 100% mission success with a tally of 27 successful flights. The string of consecutive successful Atlas launches now stands at 47, one of the best in the industry.
Tonight's successful launch deploys the seventh in the series of DSCS III satellites on the Atlas, and the eleventh DSCS III satellite overall for the USAF. All six previous DSCS III satellites were launched successfully on Atlas starting with the first in February of 1992. The original contract for launch services was signed under the Air Force's Medium Launch Vehicle II (MLV II) program. One Atlas launch remains in the MLV II program as well as 15 future flights for the U.S. Air Force utilizing Atlas IIAS, III and V from both East Coast and West Coast launch sites.
Atlas and the Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at facilities in Denver, CO; San Diego, CA; and Harlingen, TX. Major suppliers to the Atlas program include Rocketdyne, a division of Boeing North American, located in Canoga Park, CA, Atlas MA-5A engine; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, FL, Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, inertial navigation unit; and Marconi Integrated Systems, San Diego, CA, avionics systems.
Launch operations are provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at Complex 36, Cape Canaveral. Mission management is provided by International Launch Services (ILS), San Diego, CA, formed in 1995 to jointly market Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch services to the international and domestic satellite industry.