RESTON, Va., June 19, 2000 – NASA has selected International Launch Services (ILS) and Lockheed Martin’s Atlas launch vehicle for lofting future interplanetary and near-earth missions. NASA’s announcement came after review of ILS’s proposal for NASA Launch Services (NLS). NLS will be the primary method used by NASA to procure Atlas-class launch services over the next ten years.
“ILS and Lockheed Martin look forward with great pleasure to our continuing partnership with NASA and are committed to providing high performance and high reliability for present and future missions on Atlas,” said Dr. Mark J. Albrecht, President of International Launch Services.
Although initial NLS payloads will not require the high performance of Atlas, future missions will require the capability of the Atlas III and V. These missions will be awarded via the Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity terms of the contract. NASA has the ability to order up to 70 launch services from among all NLS contracts awarded, bringing the total estimated value to $5 billion. Potential Atlas missions include interplanetary spacecraft and next-generation space-based observatories. The first Atlas NLS mission could fly as early as 2003.
Since 1959, Atlas and Atlas/Centaur vehicles have flown 120 missions for NASA, including the majority of all U.S. interplanetary spacecraft. The 100% successful Atlas II family of vehicles is currently used for NASA missions. Recent NASA/Atlas launches include GOES weather satellites, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, and the EOS Terra earth observation satellite. TDRS-H, a NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, is scheduled for liftoff on 29 June.
NLS missions will fly on the new Atlas III and Atlas V vehicles. The first flight of Atlas III on May 24, 2000 marked the 50th consecutive Atlas success, and the 5th successful debut of a new Atlas configuration in the last 10 years. Atlas III configurations can place up to 9920 pounds into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Atlas V, using the same engine and upper stage as Atlas III, can place 19110 pounds into GTO. Atlas V also offers a larger payload fairing.
The launch services contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, the contracting affiliate of International Launch Services. ILS is a joint venture stock company formed in 1995 to market the Atlas launch vehicle and the Russian-built Proton. Atlas and the Centaur upper stage are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company at facilities in Denver, CO; Harlingen, TX; and San Diego, CA. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company provides launch operations at Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL, and Vandenberg AFB, CA.