SAN DIEGO, Oct. 7, 1996 – Lockheed Martin’s Atlas launch vehicle has been selected for the U.S. Air Force’s Atlas IIAS program. A contract for one firm launch and five options was announced by the Air Force on Aug. 30, and an option for a second firm launch was exercised by the Air Force on Sept. 6. This brings the Atlas backlog of firm launch commitments to 29, six military and 23 commercial.
These missions will launch on the Atlas IIAS, presently the most powerful of the four configurations in the Atlas family. Atlas IIAS uses four strap-on solid rocket boosters to increase liftoff performance up to 8,150 pounds. Payloads may be launched either from Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS) in Florida or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Space Launch Complex 3 East at VAFB is presently on its way to initial launch capability of the Atlas II series with the first launch scheduled for mid-1998.
“Atlas has enjoyed a long and proud association with the U.S. Air Force from the very beginning when Atlas was being developed as the Free World’s first ICBM,” said Michael W. Wynne, Vice President and General Manager, Space Launch Systems, Lockheed Martin Astronautics. “More recently, Atlas II performance for the Medium Launch Vehicle II program has been 100 percent successful, and we think the Atlas IIAS will provide the same level of mission success for the Air Force.”
Atlas II was originally developed to meet the requirements of the Medium Launch Vehicle II (MLV II) program. The MLV II program was awarded in 1988 and provided for up to 11 launches in the 6,000-pound-class range using an Atlas II configuration from CCAS. The program presently is scheduled for nine launches, five of which have been launched, with four remaining through the year 2000. The five satellites launched and presently on orbit are part of the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) program.
The Atlas IIAS contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, which is responsible for Atlas contracting activities on behalf of ILS International Launch Services. ILS was formed in 1995 out of the merger of Lockheed and Martin Marietta corporations, to jointly market the American-built Atlas and the Russian-built Proton.
The Atlas booster and Centaur upper stage are built at Lockheed Martin Astronautics facilities in Denver, Colo.; San Diego, Calif.; and Harlingen, Tex. Astronautics is one of five operating elements of the corporationï¿½s Space and Strategic Missiles Sector headquartered in Bethesda, Md. Major suppliers to the Atlas program include Rocketdyne, a division of Rockwell International, located in Canoga Park, Calif., Atlas MA-5 engines; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, Fla., Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; and Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, Fla., inertial navigation unit.