DENVER, CO, August 30, 1999 – Lockheed Martin has cleared its Atlas II launch vehicle family to resume its 1999 launch schedule, starting with the launch of EchoStar V on an Atlas IIAS on September 10. This will be followed by an Atlas IIA launch of the UHF Follow-On F10 satellite from Cape Canaveral, FL, on September 30 and the EOS Terra-1 spacecraft on an Atlas IIAS from Vandenberg AFB, CA in October.
Atlas launch operations had been on hold since early May following a Delta III launch failure. That failure investigation focused on Delta's RL10B-2 upper stage engine, which is similar to the RL10A-4 version used on Atlas' Centaur upper stage.
Lockheed Martin supported an industry team, led by Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, to investigate the Delta III launch failure. Concurrently, Lockheed Martin developed its own approach to clearing Atlas to ensure that no aspects of commonality between the RL10 engine versions were overlooked. Two panels were formed by Lockheed Martin Astronautics to oversee this work: a Senior Engineering Review Panel (SERP) and a Senior Management Review Team (SMRT). On August 18, the SERP/SMRT panels formally cleared the next three Atlas vehicles for flight.
"We have worked very closely with Pratt & Whitney and the industry team during the past few months to look into every possible aspect of RL10 engine production and performance that would apply to our Centaur. The investigation brought to light a number of issues that we have addressed and actions have been taken to ensure our Centaur engines continue to perform successfully," said G. Thomas Marsh, president of Lockheed Martin Astronautics.
The Lockheed Martin panels addressed the potential causes identified by the Delta III investigation, including (1) an engine brazing process that left voids in combustion chamber structural jacket splice joints, (2) higher-than-expected flight loads, or (3) a combination of both. The approach was first to rule out what did not apply to Atlas and then to exonerate through analysis what was applicable. The Atlas and Delta loading conditions were reviewed in detail and were determined not to be a generic issue for Atlas flights. Since the braze void issue is common to all RL10 engines, several actions have been taken to ensure the integrity of engines that will fly on Atlas missions.
For future Atlas missions, each engine will be approved or rejected by a new set of inspection and analysis that includes X-ray and ultrasound techniques. The results of these inspections will determine whether engines currently in inventory will be certified for flight or will need rework. The inspection techniques will be used on new production chambers. Pratt & Whitney will continue to certify each set of RL10 engines for every Atlas mission through its Flight Certification Board, which is standard procedure.
Astronautics is an operating unit of Lockheed Martin's Space & Strategic Missiles Sector headquartered in Bethesda, MD. Astronautics designs, develops, tests and manufactures a variety of advanced technology systems for space and defense. Chief products include interplanetary spacecraft and other space systems, space launch systems and ground systems.
Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Lockheed Martin is a highly diversified global enterprise principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology systems, products and services. The Corporation's businesses span space and telecommunications, electronics, information and services, aeronautics, energy and systems integration. Employing more than 161,000 people worldwide, Lockheed Martin had 1998 sales surpassing $26 billion.