CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., July 27, 1997 – A Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS rocket, designated AC-133, successfully launched Superbird-C, a Japanese communications satellite, into supersynchronous transfer orbit this evening from Complex 36B at Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS), FL. Liftoff occurred at 9:15 p.m. EDT. It was the thirty-first consecutive successful Atlas flight from CCAS.
AC-133 was the fourth Atlas launch of 1997, which is the 40th anniversary year of the venerable booster. The first flight took place on 11 June 1957, followed by two more flights that year.
“Forty years ago the first Atlas boosters soared into the sky over Cape Canaveral,” said Michael R. Wash, president-Atlas Division, ILS. “The Atlas used to launch tonight’s mission does not bear much resemblance to the Atlas of 1957, but the successful evolution of the vehicle over its four decades of service has brought us to where we are today – providing consistent mission success for valued customers like Space Communications Corporation.”
The Atlas IIAS used for the Superbird-C mission is the most powerful of the Atlas configurations presently launching payloads for commercial, military and government customers. Its liftoff performance is increased through the use of four strap-on solid rocket boosters. AC-133 launched the 3,130-kg (6,902-lb) Superbird-C into a supersynchronous transfer orbit. Over the next several days, the spacecraft’s on-boardpropulsion system will perform maneuvers designed to inject it into its final geostationary orbit at 144 degrees East longitude.
Atlas launched Superbird-C for Space Communications Corporation of Japan, which already operates Superbird A and B in providing broadcast and business communications services to its customers in Japan and the Asia region. Superbird-C was built by Hughes Space & Communications of El Segundo, CA.
Atlas and the Centaur upper stage 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 engines; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, FL, Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, inertial navigation unit; and Thiokol Corp. of Ogden, UT, Castor IVA solid rocket boosters.
Launch operations are provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at CCAS Complex 36 in Florida. Customer interface and launch vehicle mission management are provided by ILS International Launch Services, San Diego, CA, formed in 1995 to jointly market the Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch vehicles to the international and domestic satellite industry.