McLEAN, Va., Nov. 3, 2003 – The U.S. Air Force has authorized International Launch Services (ILS) to begin integrating the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite #3 (WGS-3) with the Atlas V rocket, as the second mission ordered from the company under the government's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.
WGS-3 is planned for launch in early 2006 on the Atlas V vehicle built by Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT). In February, the Air Force authorized ILS to begin integration of WGS-2, now set for launch in late 2005. In July, under a separate contract, NASA ordered an Atlas V launch for the 2006 Pluto New Horizons mission, for a total of three Atlas V sales to the U.S. government this year.
ILS, a Lockheed Martin joint venture, has been assigned 17 government missions under the Air Force's EELV program. Funding for the WGS missions is contained in the 2004 Defense Authorization Act.
Both WGS missions will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Wideband Gapfiller Satellites program, like the EELV program, is managed by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. The satellites are designed to augment defense communications services currently provided by the Defense Satellite Communications System and the Global Broadcasting Service, as well as provide a new high-capacity, two-way Ka-band service in support of our nation's deployed forces.
"We're pleased to place these two Air Force missions on our manifest," said ILS President Mark Albrecht. "We're committed to providing reliable service to meet our national defense needs, while maintaining our launch tempo for commercial customers worldwide."
Lockheed Martin developed the Atlas V vehicle to meet Air Force EELV requirements and for ILS commercial missions. Since its debut in August 2002, the Atlas V vehicle has flown successfully in all three of its launches. The Atlas V rocket evolved from the Atlas III vehicle, which also has had three successful launches. These six commercial missions contribute to the Atlas family record of 66 consecutive successful launches over the past 10 years.
"With three successful Atlas V launches in 11 months in various configurations, we have proved out the performance range of the vehicle," Albrecht said. "We're proud of Atlas V's versatility."
The Atlas V vehicle is designed to lift payloads up to nearly 8,700 kg to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). To support Atlas V missions, Lockheed Martin built a state-of-the-art launch complex at Cape Canaveral. The new site introduces the clean pad concept to U.S. launch capabilities for the first time, and consolidates the support operations into two facilities: the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) and the Vertical Integration Facility. Clean pad operations enable the Atlas V vehicle to be assembled, tested and mated with the encapsulated spacecraft away from the pad, thus reducing time at the pad and allowing for quick turnaround between missions.
ILS is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. that markets and manages government and commercial missions on the Atlas rocket to customers worldwide.