McLEAN, Va., June 11, 2002 – NASA's Kennedy Space Center has chosen International Launch Services (ILS) to launch the latest in its series of missions to Mars.
ILS is scheduled to launch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on an Atlas III launch vehicle in August 2005 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Atlas is one of three families of rockets offered by ILS, which is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT) and two Russian companies, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia of Moscow. ILS was formed to market and manage the missions for the Atlas and the Russian Proton and Angara vehicles.
Both the Atlas rocket and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are being built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of Denver. The Atlas II and III series boast a perfect record of 100 percent mission success in 60 consecutive launches.
"We're pleased to be selected for such an important mission," said ILS President Mark Albrecht. "This was a best-value, low-risk proposition, using the proven Atlas III vehicle. Its 100 percent successful performance was a key discriminator in NASA's selection of Atlas. Planetary missions like these are the bedrock of NASA's science mission and we are very proud that the Administration has placed its trust in Atlas."
Albrecht noted that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration conducts a formal certification process for launch vehicles to reduce risk. NASA has certified the Atlas II for launch of critical and high-value missions such as the Tracking and Data Relay (TDRS) satellites and the GOES weather observation satellites. Atlas III certification is going well, and Atlas III is the first vehicle in its class to be selected under NASA's Launch Services (NLS) procurement program. The Atlas III is evolved from the Atlas II series, and flew successfully in May 2000 and February 2002.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will provide high-resolution remote sensing of Mars' surface for investigators to make science observations and select possible sites for future spacecraft landings. The orbiter also will provide telecommunications and navigation relay capability for follow-on missions.
The Atlas III is part of the next generation of launch vehicles being offered by ILS, based in McLean, Va. The Atlas III is a planned progression from the Atlas II series. It also proved out technologies that are used on the Atlas V, which Lockheed Martin developed for both commercial missions and the U.S. Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The Atlas V is scheduled to begin launching in July.
ILS offers the broadest range of launch services in the world along with products with the highest reliability in the industry. With two independent, highly reliable vehicles and two dedicated launch sites, ILS pioneered the concept of Mutual Backup, thus assuring satellites will be launched on schedule.