McLEAN, Va., March 27, 2001 – International Launch Services (ILS) and Lockheed Martin have begun analyses to prepare their Atlas V rocket to launch a defense satellite next year, in the event that the Air Force needs to exercise a contingency mission.
The U.S. Air Force plans to launch a spacecraft for the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) as the first mission under its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. Lockheed Martin is developing the Atlas V for the EELV and commercial missions; Boeing is developing the Delta IV. ILS manages the EELV recurring launch services contract for the Atlas V.
The Atlas V program recently received funding from the Air Force for engineering studies and integration analyses for the DSCS mission. Although the Delta IV was assigned that launch, the Atlas V was designated as the backup vehicle. In the first round of EELV assignments, both vehicles were designated as backup to the other in case either couldn't meet the requirements for a given launch.
"Atlas V is on track for its first launch next year," said Mark Albrecht, president of McLean, Va.-based ILS.
"Having retired the majority of the Atlas V development risk with the Atlas III, we're counting down to the first Atlas V launch," said John Karas, Atlas V program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver. "The RD-180 engine has been mated to the first vehicle, and we're in the final assembly and test stages prior to shipping to Cape Canaveral, Fla., in April, a date that has held firm since program start in 1997. Once there, we'll conduct pathfinder activities, meaning we'll check out every step of the process and the new Atlas V facilities, to ensure everything's totally ready for launch."
The high-performance Atlas V is the most capable vehicle in the Atlas series, designed to lift payloads from 4900 kg to nearly 8700 kg to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). The heavy-lift vehicle, Atlas V HLV, is designed to deliver greater than 13,000 kg to GTO.
Both Albrecht and Karas noted that the program met a milestone in February, with a joint government-industry review of its progress. Called the Independent Review Team, a group of 60 senior engineers spent three days examining numerous aspects of the Atlas V development, including: design, robustness, reliability, software, quality assurance, schedule, costs, oversight of suppliers, overall program management and readiness for first flight.
The Atlas V family of vehicles incorporates state-of-the-art designs, materials and processes, including the throttleable RD-180 engine, the first variable-thrust main engine to power a U.S. expendable launch vehicle. The RD-180 and most of the other technologies for Atlas V were flight-proven last year, during ILS' successful initial launch of the Atlas III rocket.
ILS is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services and Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International. It provides launch services to customers worldwide on both the American Atlas and the Russian Proton rocket families, including technical, management and marketing expertise.
ILS was formed in 1995. Its 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 is produced by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center at its factory near Moscow. The Block DM fourth stage is built by RSC Energia, also near Moscow.
ILS offers the broadest range of launcher products in the world along with the highest reliability in the industry.