CAPE CANAVERAL Air Force Station, FL, May 25, 2000 – AC-201, the first Atlas III rocket to fly, performed remarkably well, according to post-flight analysis. The RD-180 booster stage engine performance was exceptional, including the flawless execution of a commanded throttle profile that ranged from 47% to 92.4% of full thrust capability.
The single engine Centaur (SEC) RL-10 engine performance was exceptional as well. All engine and propellant management operating parameters were within preflight predictions, as well as payload fairing staging during the 8.9 minute first burn sequence, and vehicle control using the electromechanical actuators developed specifically for the SEC configuration.
AC-201 placed the EUTELSAT W4 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) that was extremely close to preflight predictions. The 24,866 nautical mile apogee was only 5 nmi from the predicted 24,861 nmi. The 109.4 nmi perigee was only 3.6 nmi from the predicted 105.8. The achieved inclination of 19.94 degrees was well within the requirement of no more than 27 degrees. The inflight retargeting feature of the mission strategy allowed Lockheed Martin to place the spacecraft into the maximum energy orbit to achieve a first apogee passing of 24,737 nmi without violating its apogee cap of 24,838 nmi at first apogee. With the achieved GTO orbit, the spacecraft will need an estimated delta velocity of 5,276 feet per second to achieve its final orbit. This is well within the requirement of no more than 5,709 feet per second, and it should allow the spacecraft to exceed its estimated on-orbit lifetime by over 2-1/2 years over the contract life of 15 years.
Other post-launch stats:
This is the fifth new Atlas to fly in the last 10 years. All have had successful debut flights with paying customers.
The successful Atlas III flight proves out 80% of the technology for Atlas V, which is targeted for a first flight in the first quarter of 2002.
Pad damage at Complex 36B was minimal following the AC-201 liftoff ï¿½ less than with an Atlas IIAS launch.
On-board cameras provided stunning video during the vehicle ascent and visual confirmation of key events that had not been seen before except through telemetry.