SAN DIEGO, Jan. 17, 2000 – A Lockheed Martin Astronautics Atlas IIA rocket is poised on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS), Fla., to launch the seventh spacecraft for the Defense Satellite Communications System III (DSCS III) program under contract to the U.S. Air Force on January 20. This is the first of a maximum number of 11 Atlas launches planned from CCAS this year. The launch window opens at 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and extends 84 minutes to 8:39 p.m. The launch will be broadcast live on Galaxy 3, Transponder 15, starting with test signals at 6:30 p.m. EST (downlink frequency 4000 MHz, C-band).
The original contract for Atlas II/IIA launch services was awarded in May 1988 under the Air Force's Medium Launch Vehicle II (MLV II) program. All previous six launches of DSCS III spacecraft on Atlas were successful, dating back to the first DSCS III launch in February 1992.
AC-138, the Atlas IIA vehicle used for this mission, will launch the DSCS B8 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite will reach its final orbital position at 175 degrees East longitude by use of its on-board propulsion system. Atlas II and IIA have achieved 100% mission success since the first flight of each with a tally of 26 successful flights between the two vehicles.
The DSCS B8 satellite will provide high-priority communications for globally distributed military users. It carries the first DSCS III Service Life Enhancement Program package, which provides a 200% increase in tactical communications capability. DSCS 7 was assembled by Lockheed Martin at its satellite building facility in Sunnyvale, CA.
Atlas and the Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at facilities in Denver, CO, USA; San Diego, CA; USA, and Harlingen, TX, USA. Major suppliers to the Atlas program include Rocketdyne, a division of Boeing North American, located in Canoga Park, CA, USA, Atlas MA-5A engine; Pratt & Whitney, located in West Palm Beach, FL, USA, Centaur upper stage RL-10 engines; Honeywell Space Systems of Clearwater, FL, USA, inertial navigation unit; and Marconi Integrated Systems, San Diego, CA, USA, avionics systems.
Launch operations are provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics at Complex 36, Cape Canaveral. Mission management is provided by International Launch Services (ILS), San Diego, CA, USA, formed in 1995 to jointly market Atlas and the Russian-built Proton launch services to the international and domestic satellite industry.