CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., Dec. 11, 1996 – A Lockheed Martin Atlas rocket is undergoing final preparations at Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL, to launch a communications satellite for Inmarsat, the international joint venture whose global system of satellites provides mobile communications at sea, in the air and on land. This will be the second Atlas launch this year of an Inmarsat satellite.
Inmarsat-3 F3 will be launched from Complex 36A on December 17 at the opening of a 67-minute launch window that extends from 8:57 to 10:04 p.m. EST. Earlier this year on April 3, an Atlas successfully launched Inmarsat-3 F1. The second Inmarsat-3 satellite was successfully launched aboard a Russian Proton on September 6, 1996.
Lockheed Martin has now achieved a string of 26 consecutive successful Atlas launches from Cape Canaveral, and the Atlas II series, including the II, IIA and IIAS, has earned 100 percent operational success. The Atlas IIA used for this mission, designated AC-129, consists of the Atlas booster and the Centaur upper stage. Following the Atlas phase of flight, the Centaur upper stage will use two engine burns separated by a 15-minute coast phase to place the Inmarsat-3 F3 into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The spacecraft will then use its on-board propulsion system to achieve final geostationary orbit. Inmarsat-3 F3 is one of the third-generation mobile communications satellites enabling Inmarsat to provide low-cost service for the world’s first portable global satellite telephones, extending coverage to almost all of the world’s land areas. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for overall spacecraft design and manufacture, and Matra Marconi Space is providing the communications payload.
This will be the seventh and final Atlas launch of 1996. Eight Atlas launches are presently scheduled for 1997 and a total of 29 future missions through the year 2000. Launch operations are provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Complex 36. Mission management is provided by International Launch Services, San Diego, CA, formed in 1995 to jointly market Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch services to the international and domestic satellite industry. Atlas and the Centaur upper stage are built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at facilities in Denver, CO; San Diego, CA; and Harlingen, TX.
Astronautics is one of four operating elements of the corporation’s Space & Strategic Missiles Sector headquartered in Bethesda, MD. Major suppliers to the Atlas program include Rocketdyne, a division of Boeing North American, located in Canoga Park, CA, Atlas MA-5A engines; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, FL, Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; and Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, inertial navigation unit.