CAPE CANAVERAL Air Station, Fla., Oct. 21, 1997 – A Lockheed Martin Atlas IIA rocket is completing final preparations to launch a communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force at Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS), Fla. on October 24. The sixth in the series of spacecraft for the Defense Satellite Communications System III (DSCS III)program will be launched from Complex 36A at the opening of a 79-minute launch window that extends from 7:37 to 8:56 p.m. EDT. This is the seventh of eight planned Atlas missions from CCAS this year.
The launch will be broadcast live on Galaxy 9, Transponder 22, starting at 7:10 p.m. EDT.
The launch vehicle used for this mission, designated AC-131, is an Atlas IIA, which is capable of launching payloads to geosynchronous transfer orbit of up to 6,760 lbs. This will be the twenty-first Atlas II/IIA launched; all 20 previous flights have been successful, including five previous DSCS missions. The original launch services contract was awarded in May 1988 under the Air Force’s Medium Launch Vehicle II (MLV II)program.
DSCS III was built by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force’s third-generation space communications segment. Providing uninterrupted secure voice and high-data rate communications, the DSCS III satellites support globally distributed users for all branches of the Defense Department. For this mission, AC-131 will lift the 6,015-lb DSCS III satellite to a subsynchronous transfer orbit of 19,283 nautical miles (ï¿½70 nmi). The satellite will use its on-board propulsion system to achieve final geostationary orbit.
This mission also incorporates a small satellite experiment called Falcon Gold, which was built by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in cooperation with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Falcon Gold will be mounted on the Centaur upper stage and will remain attached to Centaur after the DSCS spacecraft has separated. Its mission is to test the Global Positioning System signal at altitudes above the GPS constellation, which is where the Centaur remains in orbit. This is the first step in determining if navigation using GPS is possible for spacecraft above the GPS constellation altitude.
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; and Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, inertial navigation.
Launch operations are provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Complex 36. Customer interface and launch vehicle mission management are provided by International Launch Services, headquartered in San Diego, CA. ILS was formed in 1995 to jointly market Atlas and the Russian-built Proton commercial launch services to the international and domestic satellite industry.